History’s greatest act of papal humility

By sheer coincidence, I was in Rome on Feb. 11, 2013.

My wife and I had already moved back to the United States from Rome, but on that date I had returned to give a talk on religious freedom at the Italian Foreign Ministry, which is why I happened to be in town when the announcement of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation was made.

Here’s how I became aware of it: I was standing at a coffee break talking to other speakers when my mobile phone rang, with a BBC reporter asking if I could confirm the pope was about to quit.

Because I had received countless calls over the years asking me to run down bogus pope stories, I snapped, “This is probably total BS, and I don’t have time for it!”

After hanging up, I walked back into the main conference room where I saw my good friend Phil Pullella, Rome bureau chief for Reuters, who had the same look on his face that people who’ve survived car accidents often project.

It turns out he had just got off the phone with a Vatican official confirming the pope’s resignation, and he turned to me and said, “We have to leave now!”

The weeks that followed are a blur (except for my clear memory that Pullella still owes me cab fare for our ride to the Vatican), but with the distance of three years from that historic moment, one thing seems abundantly clear.

While Pope Francis is rightly celebrated for his personal humility and simplicity, the single greatest of act of papal humility the world has witnessed in at least the last 700 years, and arguably forever, came three years ago today from Benedict XVI. Continue reading

  • John L. Allen is associate editor of Crux, from which this article is taken.
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