Second Act

How Benedict XVI may become more influential after his resignation

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Alessia Giuliani / CPP / Polaris

Benedict XVI, a reformer and a traditionalist, offers an example of Christian piety

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For a man known for efficiency, benedict will leave a few things undone. He will not preside over the entire Year of Faith he declared in October; he will not publish an encyclical on faith that he started preparing. Perhaps he just ran out of time--or perhaps these items weren't even supposed to have been on his schedule. Fate intervenes unexpectedly even for Popes. Benedict may have been spurred to consider retirement, says Tornielli, when he fell during the night, away from the eyes of the press, during his March 2012 trip to Mexico and Cuba. By autumn, work was reportedly being done on the former convent in Rome that he would move into after he abdicated. He may have been planning to announce his resignation as early as September 2012. But that turned out to be the height of the so-called Vatileaks scandal, in which an Italian journalist published a book based on documents provided by the Pope's butler. The revelations, which began last February, exacerbated the ongoing Vatican Bank scandal. And from August to October, the legal proceedings against the butler, Paolo Gabriele, absorbed the Vatican. The case must have pained the Pontiff: Gabriele said he was concerned Benedict was not getting the information he needed to run the church. The scandal must have contributed to Benedict's conviction that it was truly time to go.

The Pope who will once again become Joseph Ratzinger is not leaving behind a church in deep crisis. But it is not an untroubled one. He must be looking forward to resting from it. Yet even as the Catholic world wonders if a new Pope must constantly look over his shoulder at the old one, Ratzinger must know that he will always share responsibility for the church he leaves behind.

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