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Benedict XVI resigns

Pope Benedict XVI has announced he will resign at the end of the month due to health reasons. According to the AP, the 85-year-old pontiff announced the decision in Latin to cardinals in the Vatican this morning. Here is the statement from the Vatican Web site:

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 todays 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.


About the Author

Paul Moses, a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College/CUNY, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015).



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Massilo Fagioli already has a brilliant article on this: Pope used the expression ingravescentem aetatem which echoes Paul VI's decision about retirement ages for clerics of lower than papal status; suggesting that Popes may henceforth retire at a certain age. Meanwhile fasten your seatbelts -- Pope Dolan or Burke or Pell may be next.I'll be monitoring the situation in Rome from March 11 to 22.

None of the above. It will be interesting and telling.

I've heard that the Vatican isn't big on the idea of electing an American. If that did happen, that would be bigger news than the resignation.

There seems to be no front runner -- the conclave could go on forever.

Rocco Palmo has this observation:"Beyond the statement, no timetable or other parameters are currently known on the holding of a Conclave we're in very uncharted territory here, folks, so please be patient. The lone item of canon law to even mention a pontiff's resignation is Canon 332, paragraph 2, which states that "If it happens that the Roman Pontiff resigns his office, it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested but not that it is accepted by anyone."On Friday, Benedict raised some eyebrows by having a rare private audience with the Dean of the College of Cardinals, the 85 year-old Italian Angelo Sodano, the figure who would be responsible for the convoking of a papal election. The departing pontiff ostensibly communicated his plan to the Cardinal-Dean at that point.Now comprised of 118 voting members younger than 80, the College as a whole retirees included governs the church during a papal interregnum."So much needs to be clarified, for example the role after the resignation takes effect of the Dean of the College of Cardinals, who being over 85, is not eligible to vote in the Conclave. "Uncharted territory," indeed.

Paddy Power has these five at the top:9/4 Cardinal Peter Turkson5/2 Cardinal Marc Ouellet7/2 Cardinal Francis Arinze7/1 Archbishop Angelo Scola10/1 Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga

We can only pray for the next Pope to be the Pope the church needs at this point, and be grateful to Pope Benedict for stepping down. It surely is a good example to his successors, and cannot have been easy for him. Tom Reese has a good background piece on papal resignation over at NCR, and the Guardian has some early comments on British responses, including the usual somewhat scary lists from the British bookmakers on the likely outcomes of the next conclave.

Benedict has been such an interesting Pope. This isn't the first time he surprised people who follow the Vatican and, although he is retiring, I bet it's not the last surprise he has for us either.I'll pray he has a very happy retirement. I wonder where he'll choose to live?

I liked Massimo Faggioli's piece until the last two or three sentences. I wouldn't make so much out of Pope Benedict's relative neglect of Italian politics. Many of us, not to mention many Italians, would regard that as long-overdue, and not because we have too "spiritualistic" a view of the papacy, or of the Church.

Indeed, a lot of "code" in Faggioli's last sentences. One of the impressive things to me has been the warm relationship and mutual regard of Pope Benedict with the President of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, who today lauded Benedict's "grande coraggio."

the Dante quote that we'll hear a lot now is Che fece per viltade il gran rifiuto...

Massimo Faggioli is the best expert on all circumstance surrounding today's event -- would someone please engage him as a top correspondent for the Conclave.

Is it true that Benedict "has always seen in the political and juridical dimension of the papacy two elements of hindrance rather than help for the mission of the church"? The phobia against liberation theology would then be but the tip of an apolitical iceberg. But the Vatican's role with the UN and the lobbying of bishops against gay marriage in several countries tells another story. I doubt if Benedict wanted a church without political or juridical teeth.

Also one wonders what his attitude would have been at the time of the downfall of the Prodi government.

Joseph,Napolitano has already transformed the quote: "che fece per coraggio ..."

I hope that Pope Benedict is not ill and will get to finally enjoy retirement in Germany. I assume that after resigning he will refrain from making any public statements. What a relief it's going to be! I am glad that he sounds as much in charge as ever, in the clarity and definitiveness of his declaration, leaving no room for doubt.His recent decision to promote his secretary Ganswein and give him almost unlimited oversight of his daily routine now makes sense, as well as his rush to nominate six non-Roman, non-Italian, non-European cardinals a few months ago.I find it funny that he made his announcement in Latin rather than English or Italian. I wonder if anyone there was scratching their head realizing from the gasps that he must be saying something momentous but wondering what it was, or anxiously whispering to their neighbor: "What did he say? What did he just say?", regretting that they had not brushed up on their Latin before coming. That's one way to go about promoting the Latin language!As far as I am concerned the marking events of his papacy have been his slow but undeniable progress in dealing with sexual abuse from 2005 to March 2010, culminating with his letter to the Irish. Since then things have stalled. Now that he will no longer be in charge, he will be more free. Perhaps he can still lead by example and apply to himself a key sentence from that letter: "Only decisive action carried out with complete honesty and transparency will restore the respect and good will of the Irish people towards the Church to which we have consecrated our lives". I would like to hear from him: when he was archbishop of Munich, did he or did he not chair the 1980 meeting that dealt with Peter Hullermann? For English speakers, another marking event has been the introduction of the new missal. I still find it terrible, dismal, and the way in which it has come about has been an example of dysfunction in church governance leading to serious practical consequences for us people in the pews.I suppose that he is disappointed that the lefebvrists have not been reconciled, but who else cares? No big deal.

My first reaction (after surprise) to the news of Pope Benedict's resignation was gratitude. For all the benefits to the Church and the wider world of John Paul II's continued ministry as pope long after his physical deterioration had adversely affected some aspects of that ministry, Benedict has now offered a hopeful example of another path open to the Church and to its future popes.

che fece per coraggio il gran rifiuto -- nice, and sheds a forgiving glow on the hapless Celestine, victim of Alighieri's deadly barb. Will there be a shift in Catholic identity now? Will those who have internalized what they imagined their Ratzingerian superego to require now cease to be so confident that only they represent the full Catholic shilling? Will the forces of Vatican II rally with more confidence?

The phrase ingrescentem aetatem is a red light to a new era for the papal role. It will be limited by a realistic awareness of age and human weakness and eventually the pope will become more accountable and more obliged to govern collegially.

I find it funny that he made his announcement in Latin rather than English or Italian. I wonder if anyone there was scratching their head realizing from the gasps that he must be saying something momentous but wondering what it was, or anxiously whispering to their neighbor: What did he say? What did he just say?, regretting that they had not brushed up on their Latin before coming. Thats one way to go about promoting the Latin language!I doubt that "anyone there was scratching their head."His voice was weak, but the Latin was simple.

oops, ingravescentem aetatem.Faggioli: "The church is not a dictatorship in which the pontiff is a sovereign who acts in an "exceptional state of affairs": canon 332 of the Code of Canon Law foresees this possibility. But there is another way of interpreting the resignations, suggested by the formula used by Benedict XVI to explain the decision: "ingravescentem aetatem". This Latin formula is not used only to explain the weight of the years, but recalls word for word a motu proprio of Paul VI, 'Ingravescentem aetatem,, which in 1970 introduced the age limit of 75 for the cardinals of the Roman Curia (80 for entry to the conclave and election of the new pope), after a document of Vatican II in 1965 had introduced the age limit of 75 for diocesan bishops."

I think I caught B16 saying "vires necessarius est" instead of "necessariae sunt".

A courageous act, an heroic act, a holy act. His great love for the Church has never been more evident.The conclave will be coming very close to Holy Week.

George Weigel: "Pope Benedict XVI has said on numerous public occasions including his most recent interview book that were he to come to the judgment that he did not have the physical stamina left to give the church the leadership it deserved, that he would abdicate. I think that is frankly the word in this occasion. A resignation is something that someone hands to someone else. Popes have no one to resign to, so this is an abdication. "

resignation, abdication. I personally like "retirement"; a well deserved break after years of hard work and a chance to pursue other interests.

When asked on MSNBCs Jansing and Co. this morning to give his thoughts on the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, John Barrasso, Senator from Wyoming, said that is must be the right decision since the pope is infallible.

Isn't it funny how each reads this announcement through the lens of their personal interests: for Faggioli, through the lens of Italian politics; in my case, through the lens of the sexual abuse scandal; for people over on the PrayTell blog, through the lens of liturgy; for Fr K, through the lens of ecclesiology.

The Telegraph noted:Apparently the Italian news agency ANSA scooped the world with the news of the Pope's resignation because its correspondent is a fluent Latin speaker who instantly translated Benedict XVI's words:

God love him for having the sense to retire when he felt he wasn't up to the task of continuing. The talk will now turn to the election of the new pope. But the cardinals will still be electing an autocrat; the Church will still be ruled as an absolute monarchy, one of the few left on the planet. The Church will still remain mostly untouched by progress the modern world has made in governance since the eighteenth century: fair representation, checks and balances, the rule of law, free speech, accountability, transparency, and modern standards of justice.

Joseph O'Leary: on the Gran rifiuto, NPR this morning said that Benedict's stepping down was the first such act since "the 1400s" (that being apparently the preferred way of referring to the fifteenth century), while the BBC carried us back to Celestine V in 1294. I suspect that NPR googled "papal resignation" and came up with Gregory XII in 1415, and looked no farther, though certainly Benedict's act is more closely linked to Celestine than Gregory's attempt to help the papacy climb out of the hash it had made of itself since Avignon. Not too closely, I hope, since it appears that Celestine may well have been convinced to step down by Benedetto Gaetani, who not only almost immediately became Boniface VIII, but also presently threw poor Celestine in jail for the rest of his life. Though Boniface was still alive in 1300 when Dante made his trip, the poet manages to make clear his eternal reward: "Se' tu gi cost ritto, Bonifazio?" (are you here already, Boniface?) cries Nicholas V, mistaking Dante for the pope in Inferno xix, where those guilty of simony are punished.

Time for Vatican III. Let it continue for at least 10 years of fruitful discussion and new ideas. Otherwise, the church will simply wither into museum obscurity. And please, no more curial jockeying for position or use of the office of the Inquisition to intimidate those who would question authority as absolute.

It will be a delicate matter for Benedict to avoid influencing the choice of his successor. (Or perhaps I'm naive for thinking he'd want to avoid doing that.) Here's hoping he sets a good example in that way, too.

There is a so obvious need for someone with the gravitas to accomplish the necessary changes, Vienna's Schonborn, the aristocrat, has both the mind and the inborn confidence to be the stand up guy. De Gaulle said 'I am France'...maybe Schonborn can say "I am Europe'

A comment wafting around Facebook: "Benedict has set the bar really high for giving something up for Lent."

Dolan has moved up to 25/1. Closing in on the Africans and the Canadian.Whom will Commonweal endorse?Will Benedict continue to wear white and be called Your Holiness? Or will he return to red and to his baptismal name?

The knives are already out in Rome. See this hatchet-job on Cardinal Bertone: metaphors, I guess.

God bless Pope Benedict of course; all decent people surely wish him well. Now the question is who will be the next pope?I do not see him coming from North America, nor from Asia.That leaves Europe, Africa, Asia Minor, and Latin AmericaItalian, Ghanan, Kenyan, Syrian, maybe a Mexican or an Argentine? To say the least; this will be very interesting to follow.

I wish the old man peace, something he certainly did not extend to clerics, theologians and bishops with whom he disagreed during his years in Rome.Will liberal theologians and others feel free to come out from under the radar during the next papacy?Will B16's successor put the Church of Rome back on track with Vatican II? Will he get rid of Sodano and Bertone? Will he fire Robert Finn in Kansas City?

The resignation comes across as a very generous move. Still though, there is the delicate question of his influence on the next pope. I wish he planned to return to Germany for his retirement instead of staying right in Rome. The Benedictines have a good practice after an abbatial election: the retiring abbot must leave his home abbey for a year to allow the next abbot to gain his foothold.I do smile at Cardinal Ratzinger's quote on Bavarian television in 1997 when asked if the Holy Spirit is responsible for who gets elected pope:I would not say so, in the sense that the Holy Spirit picks out the pope. I would say that the Spirit does not exactly take control of the affair, but rather like a good educator, as it were, leaves us much space, much freedom, without entirely abandoning us. Thus the Spirits role should be understood in a much more elastic sense, not that he dictates the candidate for whom one must vote. Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined.There are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit would obviously not have picked.Yes, Susan Gannon: "We can only pray for the next Pope to be the Pope the church needs at this point."

Why do this at the start of Lent? Why force a conclave during Lent and before Easter?Isn't preparing for and celebrating what I think is the premier event of the Christian year more important that rearranging deck chairs?And, please: let's keep the mawkishness to a respectable minimum. B16 was not beloved by the masses (well, not all of us, but most nonetheless) as was JPII and, hence, any gushing and saccharine will not fly too well.As far as a successor: let the games begin! I hope that the Holy Spirit isn't run over by the non-politicking cardinals while they scheme and politic.

I'm not trying to go after Pope Benedict, soon to be emeritus, when I ask about past unwise decisions on cases of sexual abuse. I think that he might have desired to apply to himself his own advice to Irish bishops, but couldn't very well do it because of his position. Now he is more free. I certainly wish him the best, health and cat and peace away from responsibilities.

And who would the Commonwealers pick for the next pope?

"B16 was not beloved by the masses (well, not all of us, but most nonetheless) as was JPII and, hence, any gushing and saccharine will not fly too well."Actually, as I understand it, his regular addresses, meditations, audiences, etc. were far more popular with the Italians than those of John Paul, and attendance was much higher.

I can't say how much I respect John Page's comment above. He gets it just right.

What did Pope Benedict mean when he said that the "world [was] shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith"?

A request from someone who does not read or write Italian or Latin: When those fluent in these languages post a comment, please provide a translation of major points of the links or articles. I would appreciate the courtesy, and perhaps others as well.

If you paste the Italian text into google translate, youll get a pretty respectable English translation.

Celestino V was poisoned (apparently this has been established forensically in recent years).

"Will liberal theologians and others feel free to come out from under the radar during the next papacy?"What have they to fear but fear itself?

I've been thinking just a little bit more about Weigel's characterization of this as an abdication. "To abdicate" has a vaguely negative connotation in my mind, no doubt because of Shakespeare, but if that word can be used in a neutral and descriptive fashion, it does seem to be the accurate term for what is happening here.If I may pose this question, though: has "to abdicate" earned its negative connotation? The two examples that spring immediately to mind are Lear and Edward VIII, and neither the fictional nor the real-life episode is particularly happy or admirable.Without wishing to criticize the Holy Father in any way, it might be worth noting that his decision does pose a risk, perhaps a substantial risk, to the church. It is possible that the College of Cardinals will choose a guy who will do a terrible job.There are times when the responsible thing to do is to not walk away, even though that decision entails substantial burdens and suffering. Whether that will have turned out to be the case here, we will have to wait and see, I expect.

Perhaps to those less erudite, the example that springs immediately to mind is the abdication of Edward VIII, who was betrayed by Cosmo Lang, Archbishop of Canterbury, and vilified for the next several decades by media. (He left the boring job to marry a "twice-divorced American." Oooh.) wishing to criticize the Holy Father in any way, it might be worth noting that his decision does pose a risk, perhaps a substantial risk, to the church. It is possible that the College of Cardinals will choose a guy who will do a terrible job.What risk does his decision pose? When a person recognizes that his mental and physical strengths have waned to the point where he can no longer do his job, he should let someone else take over. I don't think the cardinals will elect a "guy" who will take the Church off the trail St. Escriva has blazed. (They can even select a layman. Maybe Hahn or Donohue or Weigel.) Thinking "the responsible thing to do is to not walk away" borders on idolatry, imho. The Church should be led by a person mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually strong. The fact that Benedict has the humility to recognize that, at 85, he is no longer the man he was is something to be admired, not condemned as irresponsible.I think everyone, of every age, should take a lesson from Benedict XVI. Life is short. If you're doing something you can't do well anymore or aren't enjoying anymore, QUIT. Spend your remaining days doing only what you like.

Jim: I am quite certain that Pope Benedict has spent much time pondering the questions you raise.He certainly could have continued, in spite of diminishing strength, and could simply have let the Curia be more and more in charge.Perhaps he is not entirely happy with Vatican decisions and directions in the last few months, but feels too weak to step in and fight. (Has there been a change in tone at the Vatican this past year?) Perhaps his decision could be interpreted as a vote of no confidence in the Curia.

Liturgically I think that this past year there has been more old stuff (strange vestments and such) coming out. Is that all his choice, or have his master of ceremonies, secretary, etc., been pushing for such innovations? We don't know.In terms of speeches, we discussed ( ) the contrast between two papal texts on two consecutive days at the time of the anniversary of the opening of the Council: the Wednesday text, "Pope Benedict at his finest" (dixit John Page), and the Thursday text, "reductionist" (dixit Robert Mickens): I personally believe that he wrote the one but not the other. Pope Benedict simply cannot trust his aides to write his speeches for him. They may try to imitate him, but they are less gifted and more biased.He may have surrounded himself by people whose loyalty he trusts but whose judgment and intellect are both inferior to his.

Le Monde on its second page today says that Benedict has now normalized the papacy. His successors will feel a moral obligation to retire once age begins to weigh, and the papal office will be demystified as that of cardinals or bishops has been.

Jim P - agree with comment about *abdication*.....the Petrine office is just that an office or ministry.....not an ontological state of being. Thus, he resigns from an office that is not hereditary,etc; thus, no abdication.

Jim P. ==Be not afraid. Things might become worse, but they might become better. Life is risk.

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