The Pope states he will resign, but theocracy will continue
Well, The Pope is leaving the papacy. In less than two months, there will be a new pope, and Pope Benedict XVI will go back to being just Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger. Of course, the average Catholic will have as much a say in who will become the next pope, as a secular humanist atheist like myself. A pope is a symbol of Christian theocracy. No protestant leader is as influential, as the Catholic Pope.
Where he travels to is international news, covered by the media from television to newspapers to the internet. When Rebecca Hale, president of the American Humanist Association travels somewhere, nobody knows or cares. In fact, even though I am a member of the AHA, I didn't know who Hale was until I read she was the new president of the AHA. This is how dominant Catholicism is still in the 21st century.
No, popes can't any longer persecute and intimidate scientists, philosophers and other freethinkers. It cannot command armies and navies as it once did, or spur the invasion of foreign lands. In most devout parts of the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa, the Church does wield pretty tremendous influence. It opposes birth control, condoms and family planning, which leads to starvation and increased rates of HIV infection in that part of the world. Christianity and religion is losing influence.
When it comes to the Catholic Church, a leading factor in the reduction of the numbers of church going Catholics, is of course, the coverup of child molestation by the Church. But, Catholicism still will be influential, for probably a half century.In that time, its power in the West will decline, and if an Enlightenment can be spurred in parts of Africa and Asia, maybe there also.
While I wish that a pope comes along who supports family planning, birth control and gay rights (including marriage equality) I know that is grossly improbable. Another theocrat will be elected, though he might be African or Asian or a Latino. But the ideology of the Church, will continue. I and others like me, will continue to oppose it, as much as a mouse can oppose a slowly dying elephant.