In 2006 John O'Sullivan authored The President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister, detailing the relationship between, and influence of, what he and many saw as the 3 individuals that had united to change the world and defeat communism: Pope John-Paul, President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher
Ratzinger, Obama and Cameron are by contrast unlikely to have a memoir of their collective epoch-defining achievements penned in the years after their departure.
For all of its impending doom it is easy to reflect fondly on the Cold War's simplicity and ability to unite the West in common purpose.
The times in which we live today are no less challenging, but the world is a far more fractured place. The institutions that were once the bedrock of the West are strained, and in flux. It is somewhat an exemplar of that that Pope Benedict should leave in quiet resignation, without the long global ceremony afforded to Pope John Paul.
Every organisation needs balance however, and Pope Benedict has presided quietly and effectively over a Catholic Church in deep crisis. He has been a caretaker of his Church, which is a literal, if not modest, understanding of the role. He was well suited to it, and with many faculties of the Church under severe moral scrutiny, a grandstanding leader would have ill fitted the time.
He however leaves a Church ready, and willing, for vigorous moral leadership and renewal. The fundaments of religious teaching are being challenged and pressured by a new form of moral relativism and a global progressive agenda underwritten by cultural Marxism. The new Pope will inherit a moral battlefield in which three of its once strongest nations have adopted homosexual marriage and the need and poverty of so many of its parish has never been greater.
This challenge requires a combative leader who will meet it and reset the argument. Despite the picture of institutional and moral decay many of the faith may see, the Catholic Church is growing; in Britain it is now the fastest growing religion, marked by Pope Benedict’s visit in 2010.
For the right leader, these challenges are a great opportunity, just as the Cold War once presented. The new Pope will inherit a Church waiting to be led, with its battle lines never more clearly defined.