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Published:February 27th, 2013 08:15 EST
Pope Benedict XVI Abdicates Gracefully! But Is Old Age Real Reason for Retirement?

Pope Benedict XVI Abdicates Gracefully! But Is Old Age Real Reason for Retirement?

By John G. Kays

Pope Benedict XVI just finished giving his farewell speech in St. Peters Square in the Vatican. He asked the faithful to pray for him and for his successor. The Pope hinted that he had to retire to a private life and wasn`t strong enough to handle all the travel and meetings. Benedict assumed the position in April of 2005, so he`s only been Pope for 8 years. The most striking phrase from his short goodbye was a boat in choppy water; while this is concealed in biblical metaphor, it probably is a reference to a lingering sex abuse scandal, surrounding only a few bad priests.

Pope Benedict XVI never particularly addressed these troubles in the Church, which wouldn`t go away, no matter what. The reason given for stepping down was his old age, which is 85 years, yet one has to ask, is this the real reason why Benedict abdicates? Might it conceivably be his inability to deal with this crisis of rogue priests, who have repeatedly committed sexual abuse with male boys in their various parishes?

Unfortunately for Benedict, concerns amongst Catholics (about these rotten apple priests) have only snowballed over the past 8 years (of his reign)! Yet Benedict is getting out of Dodge, preferring the world of studies and the intellectual process over the daily drudging moments of an overwhelming Roman Catholic bureaucracy, with a staggering 1.2 Billion members (all who need lots of ministry from his holiness). The BBC just ran a telling piece on the global demographics of Catholicism, which prods me to scratch my head in bewilderment!

Catholic Church membership has shifted to Latin America and to Africa, while Europe has experienced hyper-shrinkage. Latin America has 483 million Catholics, which gives it 43.1% of the total Church population. In sharp contrast, Europe had 38.5% of the pie in 1970, but this has shrunk to 23.7% in 2012. That`s a 15% shrinkage in 42 years! There`s a massive exodus out of the Church going on here in Europe! Why? Remember, Vatican City is in Rome, and this the heart of where people are dropping out in groves! An ironic correlation!

Well, certainly a main reason for the skepticism is the Pope hasn`t kept up with the prevailing social timbre of the times; conservative orthodoxy has persisted on such timeless topics as abortion, gay marriage, or the celibacy of priests (understandably pushing that one under the rug). Not that I care to address this obvious gap between the doctrinaire of the Papacy and the prevailing stance of millions of ordinary Catholics (if they haven`t already departed), but I`d say, a lack of Progressiveness covers it nicely!

Another profound take away from these BBC stats is that the most growth has occurred in Africa. In 1970 African Catholics comprised 6.8% of the total, while in 2012 it had risen to 15.2%. That in numbers is 45 million in 1970, then going up to 176 million in 2012. The percent gain is 12.4% in 43 years. 131 million more Africans are currently Catholics, then they were in 1970. Naturally, populations have increased a great deal over these past 43 years. Still, the stats are impressive!

Africa and Latin America is where all the growth is occurring; shouldn`t the next Pope come from one of these two regions? 115 Cardinals will have to decide in just a very short time. Peter Turkson is the frontrunner for Africa; maybe he should be our next Pope? Whoever it is, he better be more Progressive, or else many more loyal Catholics will be crossing themselves as they hit the exits for good.