I hope this isn’t a bad time. I have some big news and I wanted to share it with you sooner rather than later. An opportunity has come up, and I’ve decided to leave my position at the Vatican. I’ve had a wonderful experience being pope, and I am so glad I was able to work with such a terrific group of Cardinals. I’ve learned a lot and had some laughs, too.
But yes, the time has come for me to go. My sister has a house in Florida and she’s looking for a roommate. I wasn’t going to retire until I was dead (and even then I wanted to do some consulting work), but as you well know, plans don’t always work out the way we hope they will. I’m sure being a retiree in Florida will bring its own challenges and rewards, just like being the head of one of the world’s major religions.
I hope it’s not impertinent if I ask if you’ll be willing to write me a good reference down the line. Your word means a lot to a great number of people.
His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
When Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation, it shocked the world. A sitting Pope had not resigned in almost 600 years. Longtime observers, however, should have been able to piece together the hints His Holiness dropped over the past few years. Cardinal Ambrosio Scolari, for instance, wrote to his mother last year that
The Holy Father said something most unusual today. He was tired after a long day’s poping, and raspily, almost under his breath, said, “Boy, wouldn’t it be great to just live on a farm somewhere? Raise chickens or whatever, but really get to know yourself?” When I asked what he meant, he simply smiled that terrifying smile of his and told me I’d learn when I was older.
And, though the circumstances are different, much can be gleaned from the last Papal retirement, that of St. Celestine, after less than a year on the job. Writing in his journal after the fact, “Petey M” as his his friends called him said that “all this Pope stuff is bullshit. I don’t even have time to smoke a J and just veg, man.” Observers wonder if Pope Benedict’s reasoning is similar.