One should almost certainly take the Pope’s reasons for his remarkable abdication at face value. The sheer magnitude of the crisis facing Christianity in modernity is indeed a Sisyphean task for a man well into his 80s. Rocco suggests some other coincidences:
For what it’s worth, today’s date provides two possible rationales for the timing of Joseph Ratzinger’s epic announcement – first, this feast of Our Lady of Lourdes marks the church’s annual World Day of the Sick… in the Vatican, meanwhile, this is Independence Day: the anniversary of the 1929 Lateran Pacts which made the Holy See’s home-turf a sovereign city-state, with the Roman pontiff as its absolute monarch.
Nonetheless, the suddenness of this is striking. Are new revelations about the Vatican Bank or the child-rape crisis about to emerge? Is there a more urgent health problem that we are unaware of? Why not wait till after Easter at least? There will doubtless be a lot of speculation and gossip. The Vatican does all that very very well.