Whilst listening to the BBC news on Radio 4 at 5 o'clock on my way home and I heard the pope's address in Latin I had to choke back a tear or two. One of my daughters had already rung home from University to say that she had been similarly moved. We had both had front row seats at Birmingham when his Holiness visited our country.
This said I do have to admire the Holy Father's courage in breaking with a tradition which is centuries old. I saw on the internet that he had left his pallium at the tomb of Pope Celestine V at Aquila in 2009 after the devastating earthquake there. Pope Saint Celestine resigned the papacy in 1294 aged 79. No doubt Pope Benedict saw first hand the effects of the ill-health suffered by his predecessor, Blessed John Paul, and moreover the effects it had on the Church in that suffering Pontiff's final years on earth.
Benedict has taken a courageous step forward - in humility and more importantly in Faith - faith that it is the Holy Spirit who guides the Church. There can be little doubt that the Pope's physical frailty is something he does not wish to hinder the progress of the Church especially in these dreadful times in which we live. He is to all extents and purposes still a man with a mission but is wise enough to know that there are others who can take forward his reforms whilst he starts to live a life more accustomed to someone in their mid-eighties and out of the spotlight and flash of cameras everywhere he goes. A natural teacher and not the Rottweiler he had been dubbed at his election, it is strange that this crass tag soon fell into the oblivion it deserved.
How things will develop with a Pope emeritus and who will now lead the Church remain to be seen. The Pope has obviously given this matter no little thought and prayer.
God Bless Pope Benedict XVI and may Joseph Ratzinger have a long and happy retirement.