The professor was talking about the councils of Christian antiquity when the vibrations in my pocket told me that my cell phone had just received a message. Being in class and judging it not to be that urgent, I decided to let it be and see it later. But after five minutes or so curiosity got the better of me and so I glanced at it to see whose message it was. It was from my mom, asking me if it was possible for a pope to resign, since it was on the news that Pope Benedict had just made known his decision to step down. A bit stunned by it, I immediately got into the Internet, trying to see if it were true. It was already about half past twelve in the morning of Monday, February 11, 2013, and I was in the middle of our class in the history of the ecumenical councils of Christian antiquity. The news that I read left me very stunned: the Pope had made known his decision to step down by the end of the month, for reasons of old age, due to which he acknowledged his increasing incapacity to remain in the exercise of his ministry.
The classroom, being situated in the bowels of the building, was usually chilly; the news struck me cold. The professor’s voice became a droning sound in my ears, as I realized that this was something that hasn’t been done for a very long time, and which up until now, though provided for by canon law, was hypothetical, something that the popes of the twentieth century had not done—though contemplated by some—even when the going went rough in the Church.
Certainly the news was a bombshell, which at that moment was making rounds all around the globe. I managed to contain myself up until the end of the class, when I finally got to share the news:“The Holy Father has made known his plan to abdicate”, I said. There was incredulity in everybody’s face. I was afraid for a moment that I wasn’t able to make myself clear; I chose to read the most essential part of the Pope’s address, delivered just that morning. I could barely read it, since I was choked with the emotion of the moment.
Nobody talked of anything else all throughout the day. Once again Pope Benedict has surprised us. They used to speak of Blessed John Paul II as the “Pope of surprises”, but I think this present pontificate that’s about to come to a close has been one full of surprises. But this last surprise has been the most unprecedented one of all, well for the last six hundred years at least.