I have long suspected that Pope Benedict had one eye on the 'early bath' with regard to his pontificate.
As Cardinal Ratzinger, he had the first hand experience of watching the final agonizing years of Pope John Paul II when Church affairs must have been in something of a freefall.
Also, he was not a young man when he took on the role and he has had the good sense to undertake, what in industry is called 'Succession Planning' - only in commerce, the successor is identified beforehand.
Equally, I do not think that the Holy Father, having guided such a monumental change of direction in the Church, turning the oil tanker away from the rocks and into open water, would wish for an unseemly set to upon his death.
He, I am sure, does not wish for a liberal, left wing Cardinal to take over and ruin all his good work.
By retiring now, he may be able to cast a certain amount of influence over who succeeds him.
The following extract is from a feature on succession planning.........see how it reads to you (for 'company', insert 'Catholic Church'......
Succession management planning refers to the identification and development of potential successors in a company. The key in succession management is to create a match between the company’s future needs and the aspirations of individual employees.
A well-developed succession planning process increases the retention of superior employees because they recognize that time, attention and skill development is being invested in them for the purpose of career development. When you continue to challenge and reward talented employees, you eliminate their need to seek opportunities elsewhere.
Developing leadership talent is a long-term investment. A working succession system results in having more than one good person available for a key job. Real success requires choices between two or more qualified people. In order to have choices, you need to identify who is ready now and what it will take to make others ready when you need them.