Perhaps somewhere there is a quote from the man of Assisi about the man of Nursia. But this is from the recent Mexican interview with the present-day Pope Francis. Speaking of his predecessor’s resignation:
I think that what Pope Benedict did has been to open a door. 60 years ago there were no emeritus bishops. And now we have 1400. They came to the idea that a man after 75, or close to that age, cannot carry the weight of a particular church. In general I think what Benedict so courageously did was to open the door to the Popes emeritus. Benedict should not be considered an exception, but an institution. Maybe he will be the only one for a long time, maybe he will not be the only one. But an institutional door has been opened. Today the Pope Emeritus is no longer a rarity since a door for him to exist as a figure has been opened.
If I had thought about it, this would have been clear. The citation that Cardinal Egan was the first New York archbishop to leave office alive–that isn’t remarkable for either the diligence of the prelate appointed there, or the toughness or even brutality of the position. But fourteen hundred retired bishops? At first glance, that seems remarkable. But now that I think about it, perhaps Pope Francis is underestimating the number.
On the man:
I saw him the other day at the Consistory. He was happy, content. Respected by all. I visit him. Every so often I speak with him on the phone. As I said, it’s like having a wise grandfather at home. One can seek advice. Loyal to the death. I do not know if you remember when we parted February 28 in the Clementine Hall, he said, my successor is among you, I promise loyalty, fidelity and obedience. And he does. A Man of God.
I like this, and I don’t find it unexpected. Among Pope Benedict’s many disgruntled fans, that quality of “loyalty to death” is perhaps not farmed out to the margins.