Benedict XVI, the resignation of a Pope


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Lighting strikes the basilica of St. Peter's dome earlier this evening during a storm that struck Rome on the same day Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation. The decision is unprecedented. He is the first Pope to resign since Gregory XII in and no Pontiff in history has stepped down on health grounds. The move allows the Vatican to hold a conclave before Easter to elect a new pope, since the traditional mourning time that would follow the death of a Pontiff does not have to be observed. There are several papal contenders, including Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson who is a front-runner to become the first black Pope.

Ailing: The year-old Pontiff said his strength was 'no longer adequate to continue in office due to his age'. Complete surprise: Several cardinals did not even understand what Benedict had said during the consistatory and those who did were stunned, a Vatican spokesman said. Pope Gregory XII was the last pope to resign, standing down in His resignation ended the Western Schism - a split within the Catholic Church from to which saw two rival popes claiming to be in office: one based in Avignon, France; the other in Rome.

When the College of Cardinals met to vote for a new pope, a Roman mob broke into the voting chamber and forced the election of an Italian pope - Urban VI. Unhappy with being cornered, some cardinals returned to Avignon where they elected Clement VII as the pope. This forced followers in Europe to choose loyalty towards either Avignon or Rome.

Until , there were two popes simultaneously, although the Avignon Popes Clement VII and then Benedict XIII were seen as antipopes - in other words, those in opposition to the one generally viewed as the legitimate pope.


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However, at the last minute they pulled out and it was decided at a church council in Pisa that they would elect another pope - Alexander V. To resolve the situation the Council of Constance managed to get Pope Gregory and Antipope John to resign so a new election could take place. The only others to resign are Marcellinus, who abdicated or was deposed in after complying with the Roman emperor's order to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods; Benedict IX, who sold the papacy to his godfather Gregory VI and resigned in ; and Celestine V, who stepped down after five months as pope in Although officials said there had been no pressure for Benedict to resign, the internet is already awash with speculation that there was a more sinister reason behind his decision.

Speaking in one of the Vatican's state rooms, the Pope today told cardinals: '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. 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, who at 78 became the oldest Pope in years when he was elected in , said he was making the decision in 'full freedom' but was 'fully aware of the gravity of this gesture'.

Several cardinals did not even understand what Benedict had said during the consistory, said the Reverend Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman.

The declaration is crystal clear and we need to go through it word by word. The Pontiff, who was known as 'God's rottweiler' because of his stern stand on theological issues, will then retire to the Pope's summer residence near Rome before returning to the Vatican to spend the rest of his life in cloistered accommodation.


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As he begins his retirement, cardinals in Rome will begin the process of choosing a successor. Although the Pope's announcement this morning came as a huge shock to his colleagues, there have been rumours about his health over the last few years. The Vatican stressed that no specific medical condition prompted Benedict's decision, but in recent years, the Pope has slowed down significantly, cutting back his foreign travel and limiting his audiences. He now goes to and from the altar in St Peter's Basilica on a moving platform, to spare him the long walk down the aisle.

Benedict has acknowledged having suffered a hemorrhagic stroke in that temporarily affected his vision, but he later made a full recovery.

Pope Benedict XVI to Resign - WSJ

In , the Pope fell and suffered minor injuries when he broke one of his wrists while vacationing in the Alps. A doctor familiar with the pope's medical team said the Pontiff has no grave or life-threatening illnesses. But the doctor said, like many men his age, the Pope has suffered some prostate problems. Beyond that, the Pope is simply old and tired, the doctor said on condition of anonymity. The Pope, who also uses a walking cane, is also understood to be suffering from a degenerative joint disease.

Sense of incredilty: Pope Benedict XVI attends a consistory with cardinals, who were shocked by the decision. Elderly: Benedict became the oldest Pope in years when he was elected in at the age of Aware of gravity of announcement: Pope Benedict said he had repeatedly examined his conscience before God. Highly unusual move: The Pope is the first to stand down in the last years. In November , Andrea Tornielli — a well-placed reporter from the Vatican Insider, a project run by La Stampa newspaper in Italy — said Pope Benedict found it agonising to walk even short distances due to 'arthrosis', thought to be an Italian term for osteoarthritis, in his knees, hips and ankles.

The condition forced him to pull out of a trip to Brazil in July. There have also been reports that the Pope was struggling to read texts. Dr Alan Silman, the medical director of Arthritis Research UK, said Pope Benedict most likely has osteoarthritis, which causes people to lose the cartilage at the end of their joints, making it difficult to move around without pain.

He said: 'It would be painful for him to kneel while he's praying and could be excruciating when he tries to get up again. Startled: New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, tipped as an long-shot for the papacy, was shocked by the decision. Joe Korner, a spokesman for Britain's Stroke Association, said having a mild stroke also could be a warning of a possible major stroke in the future. Benedict has previously stated that Popes who are unable to do their job because of ill health should step down. His deterioration during the last few months has been particularly noticeable and, according to his brother, he has been considering stepping down for some time.

Georg Ratzinger, who still lives in the family's native Germany, said he had been having trouble walking and his age was weighing on him. Despite Benedict being open with his family, he appears to have said little to cardinals and staff at the Vatican. He said his health is too weak to continue in office. Only cardinals are eligible to take part in the conclave, which will continue until a successor is chosen.

The cardinals will meet in the Vatican's ornate Sistine Chapel and hold two voting rounds a day until they choose a new pope with a two-thirds majority. They were traditionally locked into the Chapel, best known for the frescoed ceiling and altar wall painted by Michelangelo, and not allowed out until they chose a new pontiff. They had to sleep in makeshift cells and share minimal sanitary facilities. Peter's Basilica and even take walks in the tiny state's peaceful gardens between their voting rounds.

Another reform lets the cardinals opt for a simple majority vote if they have not succeeded in electing a pope after about two weeks of balloting. Most modern conclaves have lasted only a few days. When the cardinals are in agreement, the chosen one will say 'Accepto,' a puff of white smoke, above , will emerge from the chimney, bells will toll and a cardinal will appear at the central window of St Peter's Basilica to declare 'Habemus papam' - 'We have a pope'.

The decision to resign is highly unusual as the vast majority of incumbents die in office. He is the first pope to resign in years. The Most Rev Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and leader of Catholics in England and Wales called on 'people of faith' to pray for the year-old pontiff, saying that his announcement had shown 'great courage. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, who retired as Archbishop of Westminster in , said: 'My reaction was one of surprise and then gratitude for his service and leadership of the Church over the past seven years in troubled times.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she had the 'very highest respect' for his decision to step down.

Opinion: Benedict XVI advanced Vatican by resigning as pope

Merkel, who is a Protestant, praised Benedict for his efforts to promote dialogue with other Christian denominations and religions. She said that he 'reached out his hand to Jews as well as Muslims. New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, tipped as an long-shot for the pope's replacement, said he was as startled as the rest of the world. He said he felt a special bond with the pope because he was the one that appointed him archbishop of New York. He will be missed as a spiritual leader to millions. Ailing: Benedict's deterioration during the last few months has been particularly noticeable and, according to his brother, he has been considering stepping down for some time.

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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.

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 , in such a way, that as from 28 February , at 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. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer. Labour leader Ed Miliband said Pope Benedict had made a 'brave' decision. He succeeded Pope John Paul II, who continued serving right up until his death despite suffering a number of health problems including cancer, osteoporosis and Parkinson's disease.

He also survived two assassination attempts, one of which left him severely injured.


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  • Pope Benedict XVI's papacy has not been without controversy. Most significantly were the child abuse scandals that have hounded most of his time in office. In , he was forced to apologise to victims of abuse by Irish Roman Catholic clergy, saying he was 'truly sorry' for their decades of suffering. He rebuked Irish bishops for 'grave errors of judgment' in their handling of the scandal and ordered an investigation into the Irish Church, but he did not admit any Vatican responsibility for a cover-up.

    He ordered an official inquiry into the abuse, which led to the resignation of several bishops in Ireland. Although membership was compulsory at the time, the issue dogged him through the early years of his papacy. Throughout his career, he has also been viewed as a deeply conservative man who had headed up the Church's modern-day Inquisition. However, once he took office he gained a reputation as a charming and shy man who won over many of his critics. Hence, it is perfectly legitimate to suppose that every single word has been chosen to reflect a meaning that, armed with the appropriate tools, anybody can penetrate, appreciating the subtlety of a language whose terms, often by the work of Christianity, have grown in their meaning in a unique way through the centuries.

    The first thing to notice is that the text is perfectly crafted from a structural point of view. In that document, paragraph 21 expressly calls for Bishops to spontaneously resign from office, if incapacitated by old age or if so invited by the competent authorities.

    Benedict XVI, the resignation of a Pope Benedict XVI, the resignation of a Pope
    Benedict XVI, the resignation of a Pope Benedict XVI, the resignation of a Pope
    Benedict XVI, the resignation of a Pope Benedict XVI, the resignation of a Pope
    Benedict XVI, the resignation of a Pope Benedict XVI, the resignation of a Pope
    Benedict XVI, the resignation of a Pope Benedict XVI, the resignation of a Pope
    Benedict XVI, the resignation of a Pope Benedict XVI, the resignation of a Pope
    Benedict XVI, the resignation of a Pope Benedict XVI, the resignation of a Pope
    Benedict XVI, the resignation of a Pope Benedict XVI, the resignation of a Pope
    Benedict XVI, the resignation of a Pope Benedict XVI, the resignation of a Pope

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