Opinion: No splits in the Sistine Chapel

Benedict’s decision to resign left people wondering, “Why at this time?”  There seemed to be good reasons for such a decision to be made later.

He had initiated a “Year of Faith” in October 2012; it would have made sense to leave his resignation till the end of the year of Faith.

He has completed two encyclicals – on Charity and on Hope. He was currently writing one on Faith.  It might have seemed reasonable to finish this third encyclical before resigning.

But in the light of his recent speeches and homilies in which he calls the Church – from top to bottom – to a radical change of heart, it now seems obvious why he has selected the beginning of Lent to make his announcement, initiating the 40 days of penance and reflection on the Word of God.

A silence is already descending on the Vatican as he and the Cardinals of the Curia begin their annual retreat.

Benedict will make only two more public appearances: next Sunday at the traditional noon Angelus meeting, and on Wednesday February 27th, when he will hold his final public meeting in St Peter’s Square.

Since there is no funeral service to be held, nor any mandatory days of mourning before the Conclave, the lapse of time between Benedict’s resignation and the election of a new pope can be short.

The 117 voting Cardinals will begin their pre-Conclave meetings soon after February 28th. The Conclave could well start by March 10th.

Though he will take no part in these general meetings, or in the Conclave itself, Benedict has already, through his homilies and speeches, sent out a message to the Conclave: no self-seeking, no divisions or cabals, and no splits within the Sistine Chapel!


  • Fr. Craig Larkin s.m., who is based in Rome, writing exclusively for CathNews NZ Pacific
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News category: Analysis and Comment, Pope.

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