Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict

Am I the only one to see a significance in the fact that we currently have two living popes? I am intrigued by what I have seen between Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict. I am wondering if events have transpired in this way in order to assist Pope Francis in a special and extraordinary way right now. The next question would be what is happening in the world and in the Church, or what is going to happen, that Pope Francis would have need of such extraordinary assistance?
When Pope Benedict announced his resignation I was as surprised and questioning as anyone else at this rare occurrence in the Church. Why would the Pope feel led to resign for reasons of declining health and strength when almost all other popes had suffered through such things as well, yet still retaining their office until their deaths? There have of course been speculations ranging from Benedict’s mental capabilities to conspiracy theories that he had been forced out of office by corrupt men in the Vatican. I have faith in the Holy Spirit as guiding the Church and believe that He is capable of working all things out despite the decisions of, even through the missteps of men. I believe in the scripture that tells us “we know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called to his purposes”.(Rm 8:28) I have learned not to judge things according to man’s lack of sufficiency but rather to open my eyes to the sufficiency of the grace of God where his power is made perfect in weakness. (2Cor 12:9). Whenever I am wondering what is going on, I am usually really wondering “Lord, what do you have in mind here”. I am wondering though if there is a reason or necessity right now that the visual impact of the leader of the Church be one of vitality rather than frailty? Believe me I am not saying that God threw Pope Benedict aside like an old shoe because his was becoming frail. God could have given Benedict vitality if that was the only thing that was needed.
In his final speech it was reported that:
Benedict also explained that resigning from the papacy won't mean a total return to private life, as being pope is a commitment that lasts "forever."

"I do not abandon the cross," he said, echoing remarks made during the waning days of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, who remained in office despite suffering from "Parkinson's disease. Catholic leaders, including John Paul himself, said that he could no more resign than Jesus could come down from the cross.
Benedict said Wednesday that his new role won't entail governing the church but serving it with prayer.
In other words, once a pope always a pope, but in a different role and service. We do not have two popes in office. There is only one man who holds the office of the pope and that is Pope Francis. We have Pope Francis fulfilling every aspect of the office of the pope. But we have another pope whose full-time job has now become praying for the Church without the burdens and responsibilities attached to the office. A man who can counsel and strengthen Pope Francis in a way that no other can, as one who has experienced the papacy. I cannot help but wonder why that would be necessary right now.
Personally, I see the many difficulties currently facing Pope Francis. A world in conflict, and often hostility, with the teachings of the Church. The media that twists and misrepresents every statement that he makes. A Church that appears to be fragmented rather than displaying the unity and oneness that marks and identifies it as the Church of Christ. A membership of the faithful where many of that membership have put their faith in certain prophecies that seemingly point to him as being the Antichrist, or who distrust the leadership of the Church for various reasons. These are but a few of the things coming against the Pope at this time. I can understand the need for extraordinary counsel and support at this time.
We all expected Pope Emeritus Benedict to retire quietly to the summer residence. Instead Pope Francis invited him back to take up residence in the Vatican. This side by side residency is unprecedented in its occurrence. Pope Francis has also invited Pope Emeritus Benedict to join him at times, such as when they were jointly present in dedicating the Vatican to St. Michael. It was in this moment, in relationship to St. Michael the warrior for and defender of the Church, that I first got a glimpse of where God might be going in relationship to both of these men.
The signs of the times may be telling us that the Church and its membership may be headed for some turbulent times. Times of trial that could test us all. Times perhaps of persecution (http://blog.adw.org/2012/11/some-thoughts-on-the-five-stages-of-religious-persecution/). Whatever is coming I see that the Lord, in his goodness, has prepared for it in advance by providing us the means of a special grace right now. An active pope in Pope Francis and another man who is also entitled to the name of Holy Father whose sole role is to support all of us with his prayers and assist our leadership with the wisdom of experience. A spiritual “double threat” as it were against the enemies of the Church.
Regardless of what all of this means, whether it in fact means anything at all, each and everyone of us can follow the example of Pope Emeritus Benedict in “a commitment that lasts forever”; in not “abandoning the cross” and in recognizing our role of serving the Church in prayer. To come together as the Mystical Body of Christ, to raise our shields of faith and connect those shields in a Phalanx formation impossible to penetrate. To believe as one body and to battle in prayer as one body. Have we heard a call of dissent or do we hear a call to draw closer, to tighten our ranks, to surround our Church with the protection of our prayers? Has a shofar or trumpet sounded to gather us in?


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