Pope Benedict XVI to step down
• Pontiff says his age means he lacks strength to do job
• First pope to resign in 600 years
Why Pope Benedict XVI Resigns As Head Of Catholic Church-Inability of Pope Benedict XVI to discharge his duty as head of a strong 1.2billion Catholic faithfuls across the World on the ground of ill-health and pressing challenges of old age may have prompted early and historical resignation, it has emerged.
The Catholic Church World has been stunned by a sudden announcement Monday by the Pope that he would be relinquishing his referred position as the head of Catholic Church as early as the end of this Month.
It’s the first time a Pope has stepped down in nearly 600 years.
The announcement has left Catholic church across the World reeling in consternation as the Pontiff will disengage from his current post as early as end of this month, with no prior notice given.
He announced on Monday that he would resign due to ill-health and inability to discharge his duty according to what is expected of the Church Constitution due to his waning health.
He is the first pope to leave office since far back to 1400.
The move, announced without warning has left the Church scanning for the right anointed candidate taking over the papacy .
In a statement, the pontiff said: “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.
“For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of bishop of Rome, successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a conclave to elect the new supreme pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.”
Benedict, who became the 265th pope in 2005, has arthritis, particularly in his knees, hips and ankles. He had been due to travel to Brazil, the largest Catholic country in the world, in July for a youth festival, but concerns had been raised among Vatican observers about whether he was fit enough.
A voluntary papal resignation is rare – certainly in recent centuries. Pope Celestine V exercised his right to abdicate in 1294. Pope Gregory XII resigned in 1415 to end the western schism.
A Vatican spokesman said the pontiff’s aides were “incredulous” when he told them he would step down because he was too weak to fulfill his duties. The pope summoned a meeting of cardinals to tell them of “a decision of great importance for the life of the church”.
One of those called to hear the announcement, the Mexican prelate Monsignor Dr Oscar Sánchez, said none of the cardinals had expected it. “The pope took a sheet of paper and read from it. He just said that he was resigning and that he would be finishing on February 28,” he said.
“The cardinals were just looking at one another. Then the pope got to his feet, gave his benediction and left. It was so simple; the simplest thing imaginable. Extraordinary. Nobody expected it. Then we all left in silence. There was absolute silence … and sadness.”
The announcement of the resignation was immediately followed by intense speculation about a likely successor, with potential contenders including Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Canadian head of the Vatican’s office for bishops.
Georg Ratzinger, the pope’s brother, told the German media the papal resignation had been part of a “natural process”.
“My brother would like to have more rest in his old age,” he said, adding that he had been informed of Benedict’s plans some months ago.
His successor is expected to be elected by the end of March and possibly for the beginning of holy week on 24 March. Pope Benedict will honour public commitments and engagements until the date of his resignation, after which he will move to a summer residence near Rome and then to a former monastery within Vatican territory.
Benedict became the 265th pope in 2005. he was diagnosed as having arthritis, particularly in his knees, hips and ankles. He had been due to travel to Brazil, the largest Catholic country in the world, in July for a youth festival, but concerns had been raised among Vatican observers about whether he was fit enough, according to Vatican sources .
Benedict will become the first pope to resign since Gregory XII in 1415. In that case, Gregory quit to end a civil war within the church in which more than one man claimed to be pope.
In this case, it wasn’t external forces but the ravages of time that forced Benedict’s hand. After months of consideration, he concluded he just wasn’t up to the job anymore, Lombardi said.
“It’s not a decision he has just improvised,” Lombardi said. “It’s a decision he has pondered over.”
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Benedict had been thinking about resigning for some time because of his age, a family friend in Regensburg, Germany, told CNN on Monday. He has discussed the resignation with his older brother, the Rev. Georg Ratzinger, according to the friend, who asked not to be named because he does not speak for Georg Ratzinger.
Several years ago, Benedict had suggested he would be open to resigning should his health fail, Allen said. But no one expected him to do so this soon, he said.
According to Lombardi, Benedict will step down as pope at 8 p.m. on February 28 in Rome, then head for the pope’s summer residence. He will probably move to a monastery in the Vatican after that, Lombardi said.
After the resignation takes effect, cardinals will gather in Rome to select a successor. It takes at least two-thirds plus one of the 118 voting cardinals to elect a new leader for the church.
Benedict announced his resignation just before the start of the church’s Lenten season, which begins with Ash Wednesday.
“We must trust in the mighty power of God’s mercy. We are all sinners, but His grace transforms us and makes us new,” Benedict said Sunday on Twitter, which the pope’s office joined only in December.
Francis Cardinal George, the archbishop of Chicago, has praised Benedict for a “resoluteness of purpose”:
Pope Benedict XVI has, in all circumstances, placed the will of God for the good of the Church before every other consideration. That same resoluteness of purpose speaks in his statement announcing his resignation from the Chair of Peter.
He has taught with clarity and charity what God has revealed to the world in Christ; he has handed on the apostolic faith; he has loved all of God’s people with all his heart. He has now shown great courage in deciding, after prayer and soul-searching, to resign his office at the end of this month.
With the gratitude of sons and daughters in our hearts, we ask the Lord to bless him and give him strength, as we begin to pray now for the one who will succeed him as Bishop of Rome, Successor of Peter and Vicar of Christ.
Benedict took over as pope in 2005 as the church was facing a number of issues, including declining popularity in parts of the world and a growing crisis over the church’s role in handling molestation accusations against priests around the world.
Given his age at the time — 78 — he was widely seen as a caretaker pope, a bridge to the next generation following the long reign of John Paul II, a popular, globe-trotting pontiff whose early youth and vigor gave way to such frailty in later years that he required assistance walking and was often hard to hear during public addresses.
As an aide to John Paul, Benedict served as a strict enforcer of his conservative social doctrine. To no one’s surprise, he continued to espouse a conservative doctrine after taking the office himself. He frequently warned of a “dictatorship of relativism.”
“In a world which he considered relativist and secular and so on, his main thrust was to re-establish a sense of Catholic identity for Catholics themselves,” said Delia Gallagher, contributing editor for Inside the Vatican magazine.
Where John Paul wowed crowds around the world with his mastery of numerous languages, Benedict took his training as a college professor to the Vatican and will be seen at his most influential in years to come with his writings, Gallagher said.
Allen called Benedict a “great teaching pope.”
Benedict also worked to advance religious freedom and reduce friction among adherents of various faiths, said Bill Donohue of the U.S. Catholic League.
“The pope made it clear that religious freedom was not only a God-given right, it was ‘the path to peace,’ ” Donohue said.
But Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, said Benedict’s legacy will be mixed.
“His Papacy will be sadly remembered from the Muslim world by his distortion and attack on Islam as he came to the Papacy,” Shafiq said in a statement. “This sadly meant the hard work of his predecessor Pope John Paul II was tarnished and required extensive work to rebuild ties between Christianity and Islam. That is something he has tried to do over the past eight years and we do wish it could have started better than it did.”
Sources: The Guardian and CNN