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The resignation today of Pope Benedict XVI marks a significant departure from precedent and historical tradition in the Roman Catholic Church.
Citing the challenges in meeting the extraordinary demands of the Pope to oversee the global Catholic Church and his concern in his not being able to fulfill the responsibilities, he has presented a moment in which the church has the opportunity to assess its historical practices about how the pope provides leadership both now and for the future. The Pope's decision opens up the possibility for serious discussion and exploration about how in this modern era the papacy understands its role, its practice of leadership, its structural context, its division of labor and scope of responsibility.
These conversations must occur both inside and outside the Catholic communion. They are enormously important for the future of the Church.
Pope Benedict's contributions to contemporary Catholicism have been considerable. He continues to provide an enormous gift and opportunity to all Catholics at this moment.
James A. Donahue (GTU Ph.D. '84)
President and Professor of Ethics, Graduate Theological Union