I thought this was a rather sad picture, it appeared in a German paper, presumably it was taken by a Vatican insider. I presumed that had Benedict remained in office he would have become disabled more quickly. I find it sad that a Pope can't grow old and infirmed in private but still remain Pope.
Being Pope should be something that someone in their nineties could do. It is the modern era that demands a physically able Pope. I rather like to think that the old Sedia Gestatoria was really a disability aid for ancient decrepit geriatric pontiffs and those monsignori surrounding the Pope were really care assistants enabling him to walk with failing limbs and to read with failing eye-sight. It is worth remembering that one of those monsignori historically had the honour of carrying and assisting at the papal commode.
I have a recollection of the diary of a young Englishman visiting the Vatican in the reign of Pius IX or perhaps Leo and he gives the impression that the Papal Court smelt rather like a nursing home, he speaks of Cardinals with prostate problems.
The principle of subsidiarity - that a higher authority should not do what a lesser authority can do more effectively - was very much part of my post-VII theological formation. I, like many, had hoped that this Papacy would be 'smaller', that the Pope would be more like a bank manager than a superstar. The objection some might have is that Vatican I defined that the Pope has 'Ordinary, Immediate, and Episcopal jurisdiction' everywhere in the Church - the good Fr Hunwicke has something to say on this.
Perhaps this Papacy, working on the Italian, 'fat Pope, thin Pope', principle will lead the Cardinal Electors next time round to ask quite what a Pope is for. He is not the Church's media representative, he is certainly not the setter of theological trends that Catholic neo-Cons used to want to the point that theology changes with each Pope, he is not an innovator who can take the Church back to Year Zero, dismissing 2,000 years of the Church's history, which is what Liberals seem to suggest he should be. What he, is the centre of communion, ultimately he is the judge of who is communion with the Church, in that he sets the limits - de-finition - of her Communion.
Benedict's resignation separated the Office from the man, Francis seems to be trying to identify himself more as the Bishop of Rome and rather sparingly speaks of himself as 'Pope'. The media clamour for a big Papacy of dynamic gestures but the trend amongst theologians is to shave it down, on the principle that less is more.