As our current American administration used to say, it doesn't take a weatherman to know the wind is changing.
The last Pope to resign did so in 1415 to end the Great Western Schism, when three different men were all claiming the papacy. Two were anti-Popes, so the real one resigned in order to allow the Council of Constance to resolve what had become an extremely nasty political situation.
That is, historically, the only real reason a Pope has ever resigned: to resolve a really nasty problem somewhere. Now, maybe this time is different.
But maybe not.
When Germany was at the height of its power in
1939, the man who was elected Pope had been papal nuncio to Germany for
ten years. He understood the political situation in Germany as well as
anyone alive. He was also instrumental in undermining Nazi authority and influence.
When the Soviet Union was at the height of its power, the Church elected
a Pope who had lived under both Nazi and Soviet domination. Pope John Paul II (Cardinal Kaqrol Wojtyla) was the first non-Italian in four hundred years and the only Polish citizen ever to be elected to the papacy. He
understood the Soviet Union as well as anyone alive. He, Reagan and
Thatcher helped engineer the destruction of the Soviets.
Between 2004 and 2007, Europe's Eurozone reached its height as several former Soviet satellites entered the union and joined the Euro. As Europe rocketed forward economically, the conclave elected the first German pope in centuries. Only nine of previous 266 Popes could claim German heritage. Hadrian IV (1522-1523) hailed from Holland, Stephen IX (1057-1058) from the French-German Lorraine region, and Victor II (1055-1057), was a Swabian. Again, the pick proved prescient. Cardinal Ratzinger took the name Benedict. The conclave turned out to have chosen a man with a superb understanding of Germany, Europe's most important partner, to stand at the helm of the Church as the European Union began its current course of self-destruction.
In short, in three out of the last six elections during the course of the last century, the cardinals have correctly predicted where the next world crisis would take place.
It would appear that the current major threat is Islam. As has been noted elsewhere, Muslim oil producing
nations are probably at the peak of their power right now, as oil
revenues are likely to start dropping with the invention of fracking and
the discovery of shale oil reserves world-wide.
If the next Pope hails
from a Muslim nation, if the next Pope understands and has lived under
Islam for a significant period of his life, his election may signal a
significant shift in the world's power equations.
Islam, this may be the end for you.