February 11th, 2013 began like any other day for me. I was barely a year in Rome as ZENIT’s English Edition correspondent and there was always a lot of work. I decided the day before that I would work from home in a more relaxing environment. Little did I know, it would be anything but that.
Before midday, I received a call from a good friend of mine asking me if it was true that Pope Benedict had resigned. I gave the usual response: “No, it’s probably a rumor.”
“But that’s being reported on ANSA!” he said. Surprised that a reputable agency like ANSA was reporting that, I ran to my computer.
As I was logging on, I received an email notification from the Holy See Press Office stating that there was going to be a press conference in 30 minutes and attached to the email was the text of Pope Benedict’s announcement. Completely shocked, I grabbed all my things and asked my friend to give me a ride to the Vatican since it would’ve taken me over an hour with public transportation.
Luckily, he had a motorcycle which allowed us to bob and weave through traffic and get me to the press conference as it started.
The weather fitted my mood perfectly that day: cloudy, rainy, and frankly a bit sad. I couldn’t understand it at first. I was in Rome for less than a year, but I grew to appreciate the wisdom of Pope Benedict. To know that he would not be Pope anymore really struck me.
As I look back and reflect on this one year anniversary, one thing is absolutely clear: Benedict XVI loved the Church, and I don’t mean the institution. I mean the people within the Church, those who are part of the Body of Christ. Many in the media mischaracterized him and his resignation, speculating that the weight of the scandals rocking the Church and the betrayal of his maggiordomo was just too much for him.
In reality, what was perceived as his greatest moment of weakness was actually his finest moment of strength. It showed something rarely seen in today’s world: humility.
Many thought that the next Pope needed to be someone who was assertive, who would take the reins of the Church with full force and be the opposite of Benedict XVI’s meek and soft-spoken demeanor. After the conclave, the new Pope from “the end of the world”, asked for the prayers of the People of God as he humbly bowed down to them.
On March 13th, 2013, God proved that humility, shown by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and now in his own way, Pope Francis, is what the Church continues to need today.