Pope Benedict XVI has tendered his resignation, the first pope to do so in almost 600 years. Handing in a tad more than a two-week notice, Pope Benedict will step down February 28.
Benedict, previously Joseph Ratzinger from Bavaria, delivered a statement this mooring in the Vatican, saying he is too old and infirm, at the age of 88, to continue. Ratzinger was 78, one of the oldest selected, when he became pope.
During his short tenure, Benedict has presided over an greatly decreasing number of Catholics in the Western world, with growth coming mostly from developing nations, especially in Africa.
“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,” Benedict today told his cardinals. “I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only by 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 barque of St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary – strengths 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.”
Benedict has been a highly-controversial leader, calling repeatedly for a religious holy war against same-sex marriage, and claiming gay people are a threat to humanity.
Benedict called his choice “a decision of great importance for the life of the church,” CBS News reports:
The move sets the stage for the Vatican to hold a conclave to elect a new pope by mid-March, since the traditional mourning time that would follow the death of a pope doesn’t have to be observed.
There are several papal contenders in the wings, but no obvious front-runner – the same situation when Benedict was elected pontiff in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II.
When Benedict was elected pope at age 78 — already the oldest pope elected in nearly 300 years – he had been already planning to retire as the Vatican’s chief orthodoxy watchdog to spend his final years writing in the “peace and quiet” of his native Bavaria.
Contenders to be his successor include Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, the archbishop of Vienna, and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Canadian head of the Vatican’s office for bishops.
Longshots include Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York. Although Dolan is popular and backs the pope’s conservative line, the general thinking is that the Catholic Church doesn’t need a pope from a “superpower.”
Pope Benedict XVI has spent his seven years continuing his primary focus before his selection: dealing with the Catholic Church’s worldwide scourge of pedophile priests.
We invite you to sign up for our new mailing list, and subscribe to The New Civil Rights Movement via email or RSS.