We respect and admire Pope Benedict XVI's decision to become the first pontiff in nearly 600 years to resign as leader of about 1.2 billion Roman Catholics worldwide.
Although we haven't the vaguest understanding of the weighty demands placed on someone holding such a position, logic tells us they are colossal.
Clearly, those demands had become a difficult burden for the 85-year-old pope. We find it admirable that he has recognized that he is no longer able to handle the rigors of the job.
He told a meeting of Vatican cardinals as much on Monday. The pope told them in Latin that the job required "both strength of mind and body," which he said had deteriorated in him recently.
Pope Benedict, who is the first pope to resign since Pope Gregory XII in 1415, said he will leave Feb. 28.
Because the church will not be required to observe the usual mourning period demanded when a pope dies, it perhaps can select a new pope more quickly. It appears a conclave to select a new pontiff will be held in March.
Benedict was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when selected to replace the legendary Pope John Paul II in 2005. He was destined to be a transitional pope because he was already 78 when selected and was the oldest pope chosen in more than 300 years. In fact, when selected he had been making plans to retire from his job as the Vatican's chief orthodoxy expert to spend his final years writing in his native Bavaria.
But the church called and he answered. In 2010, however, the pope himself surfaced the idea of resignation during an interview.
We are a long way from being experts on Roman Catholic Church internal politics, but those who are tell us that there is no obvious front-runner to replace him.
Those we quizzed advanced some possible contenders such as Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, the archbishop of Vienna, and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Canadian head of the Vatican's office for bishops. An interesting dark horse is Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, but the conventional wisdom of those we contacted seems to be that the church is unlikely to select someone from a "superpower" nation.
There also have been voices inside the church who say it is time to move away from European influences and select a pope from somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere.
One thing we do know for sure is that the papal selection process always has a flare for the dramatic. Cardinals under age 80 gather in the Sistine Chapel and cast ballots. At the end of each round of voting, the ballots are burned. If black smoke comes out of the chimney, it means there is no new pope. White smoke from the chimney signals to the world that the Roman Catholic Church has a new Holy Father.
The pope is an important world figure as Pope John Paul showed. We offer the church our sincere prayers for wisdom in its selection process.