If the bewilderment of the cardinals was so great, one can imagine how intense the disorientation of the faithful is these days, especially those who have always regarded Benedict XVI as a reference point and now feel somehow “orphaned”, if not downright abandoned, in view of the serious difficulties that the Church faces at the present hour.
Yet the possibility that a Pope could renounce the papal throne was not entirely unexpected. The [then] President of the German Bishops’ Conference, Karl Lehmann, and the [then] Primate of Belgium, Godfried Danneels, had put forward the idea of the “resignation” of John Paul II, when his health had deteriorated. Cardinal Ratzinger, in his 2010 book-length interview Light of the World, had told the German journalist Peter Seewald that if a pope “realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically, and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right and, under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign” (p. 30). In 2010, then, fifty Spanish theologians had expressed their support for the Open Letter to the bishops of the whole world by the Swiss theologian Hans Küng with these words: