Reading his letter, it is clear that he saw the decision as absolutely necessary. Perhaps there was a time when a Pope could lead for many years after becoming physically weak and even immobile. But that is not our world. Benedict sees this.
“In today’s world,” he writes, “subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary.”
In no area of life are people with power inclined to give it up. They hang on to the end. Resignations are extremely rare — all too rare. This Pope has given an example to the world of how to step aside gracefully and beautifully.
This action also has extraordinary implications for his legacy. He will be in an unprecedented situation of influence over his successor. He doesn’t have to say a word in order to bring it about. How to deep respect and love for this man, the successor will certainly be someone committed to his outlook on all the matters he cares most intensely about. Liturgy and music are at the top of that list. There will be no going back. The progress will continue. And thanks to this action, this progress will continue long after his death.
In short, Benedict XVI just doubled the life of his papacy.
Thanks be to God.