John Paul II's final years were heartbreaking. His once-strapping body failed him. Parkinson's disease made his public appearances painful to watch. At the same time, his decision to live out his papacy in public, enduring with dignity his human struggle against a foe he could not defeat, inspired.
One enduring legacy for Benedict will be the selection of his successor. By resigning rather than dying in office, the pope has reserved for himself an additional measure of influence over who comes next. The pope has favored Europeans as he has elevated new cardinals, increasing the chances that the next pope will be, like him, European. If the cardinals look to where the church has grown, has found new members, however, they will break tradition. Is it possible that this time the church will be led by a priest born and bred in Latin America? Africa? The United States?
A successor is expected to be elected by Easter, which falls on March 31, but there is no rigid timetable. The world will watch one of the great spectacles in religious life, the secret deliberation that will conclude with the appearance of white smoke from the Sistine Chapel's chimney, signifying that a new pope has been chosen.
And, God willing, for the first time in centuries his predecessor will be there to see it, too.
— The Chicago Tribune
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