Monday, February 11, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI to become first pope in 600 years to resign

Tom Kington
Los Angeles Times
Feb. 11, 2013

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday that he will step down on Feb. 28 due to failing health, stunning the world's 1 billion Catholics by becoming the first pope in nearly 600 years to resign from the office.

The German pontiff, 85, made his surprise statement to cardinals during a Vatican concistory on Monday, saying “my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry,” a reference to his duties as leader of the church.

Speaking at a ceremony held to canonize three new saints, Benedict said he would step down at 8 p.m. on Feb. 28. Father Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said a conclave of cardinals would be held in March to elect a new pope in time for Easter.

Italian cardinal Angelo Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals, said Benedict's announcement was a "bolt out of the blue."


Vatican insiders have noted that Benedict has become more frail in recent months; he requires a moving platform to transport him down the aisle at St Peter’s Basilica during services and has slowed during his walks in the Vatican gardens. His private life was recently exposed to public scrutiny after his butler was convicted by a Vatican court for leaking papal correspondence.

Lombardi said Benedict had not been persuaded to step down by a particular illness, but said "he had become more tired and fatigued than in the past."

Benedict’s decision, which he described as being "of great importance for the life of the church," marks the first papal resignation since Pope Gregory XII reluctantly stepped down in 1415 to end a dispute with a rival claimant to the papacy. The last pope to resign willingly was Celestine V in 1294 after reigning for only five months.


Beyond giving details of the coming conclave, Lombardi said the Vatican was entering unchartered waters with a pope set to replace a living, former pope. “We are heading into an unknown situation,” he said at a hastily called Vatican news conference.


Lombardi said the German pontiff, who was elected in 2005 at age 78, had shown “courage, a humble spirit, responsibility and a desire that the church be governed in the best way,” adding that he had met the pope recently and found him “serene.” The pontiff’s decision, he said, “did not completely surprise me.”


Full article at the Los Angeles Times

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