Pope Benedict XVI Announces His Resignation From The Papacy

The First Pope in almost 600 Years to Quit!

After almost 8 years in office, Pope Benedict XVI (formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) has stunned the world with the announcement today that he is resigning his office and will step down as Pope on February 28, a little over 2 weeks from today. Citing his age and health, Pope Benedict is the first Pope to resign from office since 1415 … which makes his announcement all the more shocking. For the past 600 years, Popes have died in office but — for some reason — Pope Benedict maintains that he does not have the ability to carry on as the leader of the Catholic Church … so he quit. Click below to read the full text of Pope Benedict‘s resignation announcement … whether or not you are a religious person at all, you have to admit that this development is quite newsworthy.

Dear Brothers,

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. 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. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. 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.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

Here is a bit of context regarding Benedict‘s short tenure as Pope and what his resignation may mean to the Catholic church, from The New York Times:

Citing advanced years and infirmity, Pope Benedict XVI stunned the Roman Catholic world on Monday by saying that he would resign on Feb. 28 after less than eight years in office, the first pope to do so in six centuries … A profoundly conservative figure whose papacy was overshadowed by clerical abuse scandals, Benedict, 85, was elected by fellow cardinals in 2005 after the death of John Paul II. The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said that the pope would continue to carry out his duties until Feb. 28 and that a successor could be elected by Easter, which falls on March 31. But, he added, the timing for an election of a new pope is “not an announcement, it’s a hypothesis.” While there had been questions about Benedict’s health, the timing of his announcement sent shock waves around the world, even though he had in the past endorsed the notion that an incapacitated pope could resign. “The pope took us by surprise,” said Father Lombardi, who explained that many cardinals were in Rome on Monday for a ceremony at the Vatican and heard the pope’s address. Italy’s prime minister, Mario Monti, said he was “very shaken by the unexpected news” … When he took office, Pope Benedict’s well known stands included the assertion that Catholicism is “true” and other religions are “deficient”; that the modern, secular world, especially in Europe, is spiritually weak; and that Catholicism is in competition with Islam. He had also strongly opposed homosexuality, the ordination of female priests and stem cell research … Benedict’s tenure was caught up in growing sexual abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church that crept ever closer to the Vatican itself. In 2010, as outrage built over clerical abuses, some secular and liberal Catholic voices called for his resignation, their demands fueled by reports that laid part of the blame at his doorstep, citing his response both as a bishop long ago in Germany and as a cardinal heading the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handles such cases. In one disclosure, news emerged that in 1985, when Benedict was Cardinal Ratzinger, he signed a letter putting off efforts to defrock a convicted child-molesting priest. He cited the priest’s relative youth but also the good of the church.

Considering the insane amount of power and influence held by any Pope (moreso than any other leader of any kind in the world), it boggles the mind that Pope Benedict may be stepping down to avoid some kind of scandal or revelation, as some believe is the true reason for his resignation. That said, it is very strange that for the past 600 years, no Pope has EVER stepped down from office and yet today, we have a Pope who quits … particularly in light of the “growing sexual abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church that crept ever closer to the Vatican itself.” Personally, as a non-Catholic, this news doesn’t really effect me. I must admit that I have much distrust for the leadership of the Catholic church mainly for the way that it has covered up child abuse crimes for decades, centuries most likely. I suppose it’s too much to hope for that the next Pope will be a more progressive, most accepting leader. It seems unlikely but wouldn’t it be amazing to have as the head of the Catholic church, as “God’s representative on Earth”, a person who is accepting of all of God’s children, more willing to work with rather than against other religions, someone willing to expose and punish criminals within the church and someone who actually advocates the unfailing generosity, charity and universal love that Jesus Christ exhibited (if you believe in that sort of thing)? I suppose it’s far too much to hope for but … if there’s ever something to pray for, maybe it is time to pray for a new kind of Pope?

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  1. is it nuts that he only gave a two week notice?

    and, yes. im praying to the universe that a more progressive pope will be elected.

    • Kayla

      I found the two weeks notice thing kind of odd too.. I mean it’s not McDonalds.

      I agree with Trent and everyone else that a more progressive Pope would be an amazing thing.

    • @Kayla — “a more progressive Pope would be an amazing thing”

      I can’t stop thinking about this … hoping against hope … can you imagine how dramatically a more progressive Pope could change the world? We could be on the verge of a new era of cultural evolution. It’s really too much to dream about.

  2. That NYT article is horribly typical. Whenever they bring up that 1985 case they fail to mention that the priest had committed those crimes years before and was already not performing any parish duties and died just weeks after…seems like less of a scandal if they tell the entire story.

    As a Catholic, I have to say that I have mixed emotions. Growing up with only Pope JP II, this Pope was kind of a surly uncle that sometimes chooses to express himself in less than loveable terms. At times you need that, and at times you need the soothing voice of a father, a shepherd. There is no man alive who can adequately fill the role of the vicar of Christ, so we only get to pray that God’s will be done.

    I will say though, Trent, that I too hope for a Pope who can fully express the love that the church is supposed to have for all humankind. The Catichism of the Catholic church, which Benedict largely wrote, speaks rarely about homosexuality, but I remember vividly on the subject that it expresses that we are only to love one another and not judge. It’s a shame to me that hasn’t been expressed in action yet. I pray that my Catholic brothers and sisters can one day come to a realization that saying “where there is love, there is God” is not just words on paper…it’s truth in motion, whether we’re talking about sexuality or other religions.

    Start praying for the next Pope, y’all!

    • RizzoLeigh

      I came here to say this, but you have already said it so wonderfully, I will just say a resounding “ditto”! I hope that more and more people know that there are Catholics out there who are praying and striving and taking action for a more peaceful, progressive world.

    • You can be peaceful without having to change your foundation. Catholicism (and my guess is many religions around the world) are based on love.

  3. VV

    The frontrunner to replace the current pontiff is apparently Francis Arinze from Nigeria. So they’ll be replacing a 86-year-old with an 80-year-old. Will he be resigning in five years as well?

    If the church wants to remain relevant, it needs to appoint someone who’s much younger than both Benedict and Arinze, someone who’s much more dynamic (and, dare I say it, more progressive). However, if Benedict is anything like his predecessor, who stuffed the hierarchy full of people of similar views to his own, I wouldn’t hold out much hope on the latter.

    • Joanna

      I completely agree with the age thing. Benedict was 78 when he was selected as the next pope. One of the multitude of reasons why John Paul II was a massively successful pope was because he wasn’t old and decrepit upon entering office. He was in his late 50′s. We need the next pope to be at least that young or maybe a few years older in order for them to fully understand the world in which we live in.

      My grandparents are in their late 80′s and while they still have their wits about them (for which I love them dearly), they are horribly out of touch with how fast the world is changing around them. My family wanted to give my grandfather an ipad for his last birthday and he took my father’s out for a “test drive” so to speak and was totally intimidated by the fact that it didn’t come with a tower case, mouse, bulky screen, or a keyboard.

      it’s not just technology the pope has to keep up with either. They have to be in tuned with the changing environment especially on the subjects of gay marriage and the alleged sexual abuse that is rampant within the Catholic church. Pope Benedict wasn’t all that pleased with how liberal the Catholic church had become under John Paul II’s rule and made sure to take it as far right as he could go without totally alienating his constituents.

      I think it’s time for the world to experience the most liberal pope that is allowed under the Catholic church rules and having someone who is of the age of most grand and great grandparents might not able to connect with the Catholics of the world the way we would want them to.

    • @Joanna — Amen

  4. Nancy

    I never thought he was stepping aside to avoid some kind of scandal. He is pretty old. It looks like he has aged 30 years in the last 8 years. That being said, if he is doing this to avoid something as the article suggests, then it will do so much harm to the Catholic Church.
    I would like to think that after watching how Pope John Paul II slowly withered away, this Pope would rather there be an active” pope in charge with as little break inbetween as possible.
    Here’s hoping for the positive!

  5. Didn’t documents that were released just recently because of judicial action by victims in California show that he helped move some priests who were victimizing children (before he was Pope)? It was a local story here, but it could grow into something bigger.

    • @Krissy — Yes. But, honestly, I find it very difficult to believe that anything will ever come close to touching the Pope — even after he quits. My gut tells me he is just old and tired and wants to stop being Pope.

    • I agree that nothing could ever really touch the Pope because of the power they hold, but at the same time the fact that it has been 600 years since a Pope resigned is a pretty big deal. 1415 was a long time ago! It isn’t usually a job that people “quit”, even though the traditional Pope is usually quite old. I am not condemning him as being guilty of anything, but I just wouldn’t be surprised if we find out there is more to this decision in the future.

  6. Lola

    This certainly is a shock – as a Catholic, I can only trust that Pope Benedict is stepping down because it is God’s will and whoever He has chosen to be our next pope will be willing and able to shepherd and guide His children.

    That being said, the Catholic church doesn’t “change with the times”. Even though society and the secular world may change, the Church does not, and should not. I feel that the church in Canada has already lost so much of the foundation and tradition that it once had in a effort to “fit in”. I would have a hard time following a religion that changed its belief system and values every time it was challenged or became unpopular. What kind of foundation is that? To be honest, if the new Pope was “progressive” and “more liberal”, I would be extremely worried about the direction the Church was headed in.

    • @Lola — You know, I absolutely feel you on this. But, I suppose, the argument can be made that a more accepting, progressive Catholic church wouldn’t necessarily be changing with the times … it could be viewed as going back to the traditional basics that Jesus taught when he was alive. The teachings of Jesus were considered extremely progressive, very revolutionary for his time … it’s why he was executed by the Powers that Be. It doesn’t get more simple than the golden rule, love your neighbor … treat them as you would like to be treated. A Pope that truly advocated that simple lesson would help steer the church in the right direction, I think.

  7. Charlotte

    From where I sit, I doubt that Benedict is resigning to avoid a scandal. He inherited a church that was rife with scandal and one of the least know facts about him is that he was a driving force within the church trying to address the issues justly. He has his faults, we all do, and there are many theological issues about which I disagree with him. But he actually pushed John Paul to act on the abuses. Although JPII was a charismatic guy, he was no reformer. He put people into positions of power who ought not to have been. I’m sure Benedict has as well, but he’s a more thoughtful Pope. He’s actually made some very interesting appointments while Pope – and many conservatives are unhappy with how “progressive” he’s been.
    As a Catholic, I too was surprised, but not shocked. He’s made statements in the past and some more recently about Pope’s stepping aside when age or infirmity impedes their ability to carry out the papal ministry. It’s a heavy schedule for an 85 year old – I’d bail too if I were in his lovely red Prada shoes.

  8. Charlotte

    Btw, he likely gave two weeks so that he could initiate the lenten season on Ash Wednesday (next week) but not have to undertake the grueling Easter liturgy. I thought it might kill him last year – he looked exhausted. The conclave will likely be complete by then.

    • I have read that elsewhere as well. The Easter season is very “taxing” for someone in his position and age. I’d rather he step down then turn into a feable and questionable leader. Sadly, he may have some serious health problems – such as dementia – and he could be making decisions while not in a condition to do so.

  9. living in a country that’s called the asian catholic country. there are a LOT of priests here that deserved to be punished, not just for child abuse but also for being corrupt, and for smuggling precious ivory!

  10. I think if he does not feel fit to be Pope, whatever the reason, it is a good idea he steps down. I know he’s the first to resign in a longggg time, but if he can’t do the job, then it’s the best decision. I agree with others above that it would be great to get someone more progressive in as Pope. I’m sure there won’t be any overnight changes, but it would be really cool. I was raised Catholic (Catholic school K-12 as well) and still consider myself a Catholic. Though I rarely go to mass and definitely do not believe all things the Church says, this is of interest to me.

  11. woodroad34

    Over at Americablog, they have an interesting article about the timing and possible reason as to the immediacy (fyi-it has to do with a lawsuit and The Legion of Christ in Rhode Island): http://americablog.com/2013/02/did-the-pope-resign-to-avoid-facing-a-major-about-to-break-scandal.html

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