Giuseppe Cardinal Siri once gave a sermon in his Archdiocesan See of Genoa, on the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, that included a remark that at the time, witnesses have said, even surprised him a bit with words to this effect:
“He [the successor of Blessed Peter the Apostle] cannot, even if he might wish, do differently than as St. Peter.” [namely, to confirm the brethren in catholic faith]
Beginning with that principle, it is only natural for Catholics to grapple, to come to terms with, the novelty of Pope Benedict XVI’s renunciation of the papal powers.
The first Pope, St. Peter, made provision for the faithful and tradition as his demise approached; that is, at the end of his life & reign as chief shepherd of Christ’s flock on earth, and bishop of Rome, he took measures to provide for the continuation of the teaching authority, to instruct the flock, both of which (or whom) he received from Jesus Christ in order to lead souls to Him in heaven.
For so an entrance shall be ministered to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. For which cause I will begin to put you always in remembrance of these things: though indeed you know them, and are confirmed in the present truth. But I think it meet as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance. Being assured that the laying away of this my tabernacle is at hand, according as our Lord Jesus Christ also hath signified to me. And I will endeavour, that you frequently have after my decease, whereby you may keep a memory of these things. (II Pet. i, 11-15)
“Being assured that the laying away of this [his] tabernacle [mortal life] is at hand, according as our Lord Jesus Christ also hath signified to me [Pope Benedict XVI]”, what then has Pope Benedict “endeavour[ed], that you frequently have after [his] decease, whereby you may keep a memory of these things” [i.e., those things needed to enter the kingdom of heaven]?
For starters, he may well have ‘tapped’ his successor. Who? He does not say, publicly. But he has said this much, addressing the cardinals he met on the last day of his pontificate, February 28:
Prior to bidding farewell to each of you personally, I want to tell you that I will continue to be close to you in prayer, especially in the next few days, so that you may all be fully docile to the action of the Holy Spirit in the election of the new Pope.
May the Lord show you what is willed by Him. And among you, among the College of Cardinals, there is also the future Pope, to whom, here to today, I already promise my unconditional reverence and obedience. For all this, with affection and gratitude, I cordially impart upon you my Apostolic Blessing. [emphasis is the editor’s]
Given that His Holiness has said the above while still infallible, one feels confident to assume that the cardinals will not elect someone outside of the college of cardinals.
And perhaps he has said so also because His Holiness has already let (some of) them know his choice?