Pope throws in the towel (he’s the first Pope to resign in over 700 years)

Posted by News Express | 11 February 2013 | 4,122 times

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Pope Benedict XVI will step down at the end of this month after nearly eight years as head of Catholic Church, and this is official

The Pontiff, 85, surprised the world and left Catholics stunned when he announced today that he would resign on February 28, making him the first pope to do so since the middle ages.

The move, announced without warning, will leave the papacy vacant until a successor is chosen.

A Vatican spokesman said Benedict’s aides were “incredulous” when he told them he would resign because he was too weak to fulfil his duties. He summoned a meeting of cardinals to tell them of “a decision of great importance for the life of the church.” The Pope is known to have has arthritis, particularly in his knees, hips and ankles.

Mexican prelate Monsignor Oscar Sanchez, who is one of those called to hear the announcement, 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,” Sanchez 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,” Sanchez added.

Benedict’s successor is expected to be elected by the end of March and possibly for the beginning of holy week on March 24. It has been confirmed that 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.

He will take no part in the process to elect a successor Cardinals will meet and vote on nominees in a series of ballots until a new pope is chosen.

Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said Benedict, 85, had resigned not because of “difficulties in the papacy” or a specific illness but instead a progressive decline in his strength.

“In the last few months he has seen a decline in vigour, both of the body and spirit,” Lombardi told reporters. “It was his personal decision taken with full freedom, which deserves maximum respect.”

In a statement, Benedict 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.”

News Express reports that Benedict became the 265th pope in 2005 after beating Nigeria’s cardinal Francis Arinze and other candidates. Arinze had been expected to become the first Black Pope but it never happened.

Pope Benedict 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 well enough.

A voluntary papal resignation is rare – certainly in recent centuries. Pope Celestine V exercised his right to abdicate in 1294.

Source: News Express

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