Roman Catholics world-wide have little choice but to accept Pope Benedict XVI's decision to retire is plausible.

The pontiff cites failing strength of mind and body due to old age. He is 85.

Benedict leaves a legacy of never wavering on upholding strict moral values; he is a true conservative when it comes to centuries-old teachings of the Catholic Church.

In his seven-plus-year ministry as leader of more than 1 billion Catholics he faced the challenges brought on by clerical abuse scandals, document leaks by his personal butler and criticism of how the Vatican runs its internal bank. He leaves the oldest institution in the western world; the Catholic Church's history goes back nearly 2,000 years.

We've learned the pope's decision to abdicate on Feb. 28 was made, albeit privately, months ago. That's according to his brother, the Rev. Georg Ratzinger.

There is tremendous pressure on the shoulders of a pope, a successor to Saint Peter. According to a dogma of the Catholic Church, the promise of Jesus to Peter is the pope is preserved from the possibility of error; he is infallible.

Besides dealing with growing divisions among Catholics, it had to be difficult for the former Cardinal Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger to follow Pope John Paul II. As Catholic writer Rev. Thomas Reese said, and so many agree, John Paul "was bigger than life." Pope John Paul II was beatified in 2011.

Now the question is will the next pope be a present cardinal who will continue Benedict's conservative mindset, or will he embrace change in hopes of strengthening the Church's declining influence worldwide.


There are those who believe the next pope should come from South America, Latin America or possibly Africa or Asia. Canada is mentioned. Scholars say there is little chance the next pope will come from the United States.

Traditionally, over the centuries, popes have been Italians, although Benedict was from Germany and John Paul from Poland.

The cardinals will begin the process of selecting a new pope in mid-March, in time for Easter. And in the vein of the present-day Church, liberal Catholics will vie with those of Pope Benedict's conservative persuasion.

It is not difficult to believe that Pope Benedict was well aware of the ongoing situation of priests, bishops and nuns who have been debating strict Catholic guidelines.

We think Benedict made the right decision. He leaves with the legacy of strict moral teachings; and he has the strength of mind to realize someone physically and mentally stronger is needed to lead the Catholic faith. Feb. 15