Pope Benedict’s Resignation, and How It Could Affect the Tenure of Next Generation Popes

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | February 12, 2013 2:58 PM EST

The world's reaction to his resignation as head of the Roman Catholic Church was nuclear bomb explosion epic proportions. Even non-believers of the secular religion were dumbfounded by Pope Benedict XVI's shocking statement on February 11, 2013, one that surely is already imprinted in world history.

The 85-year-old successor of Saint Peter the Apostle said he is stepping down because of his age and declining strength, which is in very stark contrast to his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, who held on to his post despite having Parkinson's disease, which later was the cause of his death.

Observers and critics believe there is more than meets the eye on why Pope Benedict XVI wanted to step down, but all will remain a mystery as the person himself.

Still, the question remains - how will this resignation affect that of the tenures of the next generation leaders of the Catholic Church? Moreso since many regard that the Papacy is a lifetime position? Sort of till death do us part kind of thing.

"He has set a serious and important historical precedent by his resignation," Paul Collins, former Catholic priest and religious historian, told ABC News.

Life as head of the Roman Catholic Church is taxing, according to David Monroe, Bishop of Kamloops, a city in south central British Columbia.

"Most people never know the amount of work that he does, the talks he has to prepare and give, the number of people he has to be thinking of, and he writes his books on the side," Bishop Monroe told the Kamloops Daily News. "For a person in any age 75 or older, he does an awful lot. I wouldn't say 'Oh gosh he should keep up.' If he feels that this is time, OK."

As Pope John Paul II's most intimate and closest collaborator, Mr Collins said Pope Benedict XVI saw the former's very slow process of death.

"I think he realised that there's a real danger built into the fact that you are Pope until you die, because modern medicine does have the ability to keep you alive."

"What would we do if the Pope had dementia or was in some way incapacitated, or lapsed into unconsciousness? Who is going to decide to switch off the machines? Those are the kind of questions that were lurking around with the previous Pope."

"I think that he's made what is the most important and significant decision of his papacy, that is to resign and in so doing set a precedent."

Bishop Monroe likewise thinks that if pope resignations were only frequent, the world would not be in such a state of surprise. The last pope who resigned was Pope Gregory XII in 1415, due to a Vatican leadership crisis.

"If papal resignation occurred every 50 or 100 years, it wouldn't be such a shock," the bishop said.

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