Benedict has reached out to disenchanted Anglicans. It remains to be seen whether he will see his dreams realized. Considering his age, it is doubtful if he will see progress in this area.
There is no doubt that he disliked many things American, including females as altar servers. He could tolerate women as readers.
As pope, Benedict seemed less driven to be an enforcer. If he were seen that way, it might affect his ability to reach out to persons in need of reconversion. A hard-line attitude might have worked in the Middle Ages, but in the present era, there is no doubt in my mind that he would have failed by taking the hard line.
Perhaps it is purely a coincidence, but in one televised Mass I saw from Australia, his closing prayer, read from a book, was taken from an Anglican liturgy developed in England in the late 1920s. Its tone is irenic and peaceful, and it begins "Go forth into the world in peace." I am sure he knew that his prayer, while Catholic in origin, was not Roman at all. I have used that very prayer as a dismissal at the end of services for years.
Finally, there were two issues that absorbed him. The growth of Islam seemed to offer a field white unto the harvest, at least of understanding. The other issue was the Roman Church's relationship with the Orthodox Churches who seemed cool to his overtures.
By retiring, he opens the field to a cadre of papal possibilities. Will the new pope come from Africa? The United States? What about South America? Who knows? What remains true is that being pope is a tough job for an old man, and I speak as one who hung up some pastoral responsibilities at a much younger age. There is no possibility that the new pope will be as young as John Paul II was at 58.
The world waits to see the smoke from the sacred chimney. Who will bear this impossible vocation?
Posey is a retired Presbyterian minister in Charleston.