Duluth papal historian ‘blown away’ by pope’s resignation
on Feb 12, 2013
Kunst, who is parish priest at St. John the Evangelist in Duluth, said there were few obvious hints that Benedict would step down and no obvious successor to take over the church.
“Like everyone else, I was blown away. Popes just don’t resign,” Kunst said. “But from a historical point of view, this is just incredible news. It’s great to see everybody interested in the stuff that I live, eat and breathe every day.”
The last time a pope resigned was 1415, Kunst noted, “but that was over a dispute on who was the real pope. … You have to go back to 1294, to Celestine V, to find a guy who resigned because he thought he was in over his head.”
Kunst said Benedict appears to be succumbing to the rigors of old age but may have been thinking of resigning for months. Last year, Benedict visited the tomb of Celestine V and left a papal vestment there, Kunst said.
Kunst said there will be an interesting few weeks after Benedict resigns on Feb. 28 and before the conclave of cardinals meets in late March to elect a new pope. Officially, a triumvirate of cardinals will run the day-to-day operations of the global church.
Kunst predicted that the very secret cardinal conclave will opt for a youth movement to avoid having the issue of frailty or old age come up again anytime soon. He noted that, historically, popes have short reigns, and that Benedict, who was elected pope in 2005, already was among the 10 oldest popes ever to serve at age 86.
“I think it’s all speculation now on who is at the top of the list to replace him. … I don’t think there is a front-runner,” Kunst said. “But you can bet that they will pick a younger man.”
Kunst said Benedict may be best remembered by Catholics for his effort to restore respect and reverence to the Mass.
“His legacy will probably be in respect to the liturgy … the appropriate way to celebrate the Mass,” Kunst said.
Kunst said his collection of Benedict items probably rocketed up in value with Monday’s news, although he has no plans to ever sell any of his world-renowned papal collection.
Kunst owns a skull cap, or zucchetto, worn by Benedict, as well as a 1951 holy card celebrating the ordination of Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger as a priest. He also has several autographs of the outgoing Pope.
But perhaps the most valuable part of Kunst’s Benedict XVI collection is a very rare, unused copy of the so-called “scrutiny ballot” used by the cardinals to elect Benedict in 2005. The actual ballots are burned, but this blank copy somehow made it out of Rome and into Kunst’s collection.