, Salem, MA


February 16, 2013

Henry: Pope shows how to bow out gracefully

Pope Benedict XVI has decided to retire. In doing so, he has set a good example for everybody with silver hair in various strands of thinning.

Before we proceed, a reader advisory: Those of you looking for a column critical of the pope or his church should go elsewhere. My mother was Catholic, and the church was a great solace to her all her life.

Goodness knows, both church and pope have had their problems in recent years, but, out of respect for Mum, my intention today is to send good wishes to the Holy Father on a decision sensibly made. However, out of respect for Dad, who was a Protestant, I will note that the idea of an Old Popes Home is fairly hilarious.

But make no mistake: Pope Benedict is doing the right thing in becoming the first pope to retire in nearly 600 years. There comes a time when you just have to put the old mitre down and lift the fancy slippers up.

In the job description of pope, it clearly states that the pontiff must speak up for eternal truths — and the idea that 85 is the new 75 is not one of them. Anyone who says different should go to confession and be made to say three Hail Marys.

I appreciate the pope’s leadership in promoting timely retirement. One day I’ll retire, too, but for the moment my mind and body are still up to the task of amusing those who like to be amused and irritating those who deserve to be irritated. I am no pontiff, but I do pontificate a lot, so perhaps I can offer a few timely observations.

Pope Benedict has announced that he will leave at 8 p.m. Feb. 28 — an unusually precise time. See, this is why I’m not pope: I would have stayed around until 10 p.m., so at least I could be sure of getting a good dinner out of it before I left.

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