This is one of those rare occasions when the Seat of Peter is vacant; but this time it is diffent. The Pope is still alive and we are in a situation whose precedents go right back to the Middle Ages. Several popes abdicated in the First Millenium; only three universally recognised popes did so in the Second Millenium - none since the end of the Great Schism of the West. Now we begin the Third Millenium with a retirement.
Pope Benedict was steeped in patristics and took seriously not only faith, but the practices and disciplines of the Apostolic Age. In so many ways, he wished to point us in that direction. He would have seen the Petrine office in this way too; in a very different way, for example, from an historian with an elegant turn of phrase afforded column space in The Irish Times to entertain readers who presume they know everything. Benedict's principal legacy will be his writings. He would not want us to hold them up and revere them simply because he wrote them, but to study and absorb them. And to bring them into our spiritual life. And to allow this guide us in our action. We are all called to be evangelical and apostolic. St Francis said we much always preach and if necessary, to use words. But we all have different capacities. Pope Benedict has given us material to reflect upon. Let us pray for him in his retirement and that the Holy Ghost will choose a worthy successor. Or at least to shower multiple gifts on he whom the cardinals select.