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John Allen skriver om de fem viktigste katolske nyhetene som fikk minst oppmerksomhet i 2013, og på første plass blant disse setter han det faktum at pave Benedikt frivillig trådte tilbake. Her er en del av det han skriver om dette:

1. Benedict the revolutionary

Despite images of Francis as a maverick, by far the single most revolutionary act committed by a pope in 2013 came from Benedict XVI in the form of his stunning decision to voluntarily renounce his office. Sometimes lost in the shuffle amid the frenzy over Francis is that Benedict was actually the prime mover in the drama.

Benedict, of course, never had much luck when it came to PR. He came into office with a prefabricated narrative about being «God’s Rottweiler» and «the Vatican’s enforcer» and was never really able to shake it. In terms of public opinion, the difference between Benedict and Francis is perhaps best expressed this way: Under Benedict, people assumed that whatever they didn’t like about the church was because of the pope; now, they tend to think it’s in spite of the pope.

As a result, the tendency is to frame Benedict and Francis almost as matter and antimatter — tradition vs. innovation, dogmatism vs. compassion, etc. Apart from the debatable merit of those perceptions, what they ignore is that Francis would not have happened without Benedict’s decision to stand aside.

Equally notable is the way he’s handled his departure. In his final address to the cardinals Feb. 28, Benedict pledged «unconditional reverence and obedience» to his successor, and he’s held up his end of the deal. Other than a private letter he sent to an Italian atheist that was leaked by the recipient, Benedict has only been seen or heard in public when Francis has come calling or invited him to something.

Despite well-documented umbrage among some about the new direction under Francis, Benedict has done nothing to encourage a «loyal opposition» or to legitimize dissent from the new regime.

In effect, Benedict has gone from infallibility to near-invisibility, and entirely by his own choice. If that’s not a «miracle of humility in an era of vanity,» to invoke Elton John’s Vanity Fair tribute to Francis back in June, it’s hard to know what would be.

At a substantive level, several of the reforms for which Francis is drawing credit, including his cleanup of Vatican finances and his commitment to «zero tolerance» on sex abuse, amount to continuations of policies that began under Benedict.

Even if that weren’t the case, the point remains that the «Francis effect» might have been lost to history without Benedict taking a step no pope had taken in 600 years — and given the markedly different circumstances, one could argue it’s a step no pope had ever taken in quite this way. … …

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