Shocking world, Pope Benedict steps down
Pope Benedict XVI leaves at the end of his weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican November in this 16, 2011 file photo. Pope Benedict said on February 11, 2013 he will resign on Feb 28 because he no longer has the strength to fulfill the duties of his office, becoming the first pontiff since the Middle Ages to take such a step. REUTERS/Stefano RellandiniPope Benedict shocked the world today by declaring that he no longer had the mental and physical strength to cope with duty, in an announcement that will make him the first pontiff to step down since the Middle Ages.
The 85-year-old pope, who cited his age as the reason preventing him from continuing at the head of the papacy, said that carrying out the duties of being pope, the leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics worldwide, required “both strength of mind and body.”
On the death or abdication of a pope, his successor is elected by a college of cardinals meeting in conclave in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. The new pope will have to be elected with a two-thirds majority, however many rounds of voting the process might take.
No sign of schism fear
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the pope had not decided to resign because of “difficulties in the papacy,” indicating that even his inner circle was unaware that he was about to quit. The pope does not fear schism in the Church after his resignation, he said. The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415 in a deal to end the Great Western Schism among competing papal claimants.
World political leaders and the spiritual heads of various religious groups have expressed their thoughts after the pope’s announcement. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she had the “very highest respect” for German-born Pope’s decision to step down. British Premier David Cameron said Pope “will be missed as a spiritual leader to millions,” while French President François Hollande hailed the pope’s decision to resign due to old age as one worthy of respect.
The spiritual head of the world’s Anglicans, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, said it was with a “heavy heart” that he learned of the pope’s decision. The Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Yona Metzger, said the Pope helped reduced anti-Semitism around the world while a spokesman for the the Russian Orthodox Church said he did not anticipate any major changes as a result of the resignation.
Potential successors for papacy: Francis Arinze
Francis Arinze of Nigeria, Peter Turkson of Ghana and Marc Ouellet of Canada were among the cardinals hotly tipped by bookmakers to take over from Pope Benedict XVI. They named 80-year-old Arinze as their favorite to replace the pontiff following the shock announcement of the pontiff’s resignation with odds of 2-1, followed by Turkson at 5-2. Bookmakers also offered odds of 8-1 on Archbishop Angelo Scola of Italy and 10-1 on Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras. At the humorous end of the scale, a bookmaker, Coral, was offering 2000-1 on disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong becoming pope.
Past papal resignations
Pope Benedict XVI is the first pontiff to step down in modern Catholic Church history. At most, there have been only five papal abdications in 2,000 years, but numerous popes were deposed or exiled, 21 popes are listed as martyrs and nine others are considered martyrs. Four popes died in exile or in prison, six were assassinated, two died of wounds received in the course of riots and one was killed when a roof collapsed. Here are the first and last examples of previous popes who have given up the papacy.
In 1045, Benedict IX, renowned as one of the most disgraceful popes the Church has known, sold his papacy to his godfather, pious priest John Gratian, so that he could get married.
In 1415, Gregory XII resigned in a bid to end the “Western Schism,” when two rival claimants declared themselves pope in Pisa and Avignon and threatened to tear apart Roman Catholicism.
How does a pope resign ?
After Pope Benedict’ XVI’s resignation statement, everybody is asking the question, how does a pope resign?
In theory, there is nothing to stop a pope drafting a letter of resignation to hand to the College of Cardinals. The College of Cardinals is the supreme electoral body of the Catholic Church.
Under Canon Law, the only conditions for the validity of such a resignation are that it be made freely and be properly published.
Portrait of ‘God’s Rottweiler’: pianist, writer and intellectualVATICAN CITY
Pope Benedict XVI, who has said he never wanted to be pope, will be remembered as a staunch defender of Roman Catholic orthodoxy, a diehard traditionalist and a lightning rod for controversy.
The German intellectual succeeded the long-reigning John Paul II in April 2005 aged 78 after serving nearly a quarter-century as the church’s doctrinal enforcer, earning himself the nickname “God’s Rottweiler.” Benedict, formerly Joseph Ratzinger, had famously said in 2010 that he would resign if he felt he could no longer carry out his papal duties. As head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and then as pope, he rejected the ordination of women and marriage for priests. He opposed homosexuality and communism and was never afraid of upsetting political sensibilities.
As pope, he championed Christianity’s European roots and showed his conservatism by stressing family values and fiercely opposing abortion, euthanasia and gay marriage. A quiet, almost shy person, Benedict shunned rock-star status, once describing himself as “just the vicar” at the Roman Catholic Church’s World Youth Days. The intellectual Benedict, an accomplished pianist, is a prolific writer. Apart from three encyclicals, or instructions to the Roman Catholic flock, he has written around 40 other works including a best-seller, “Jesus of Nazareth.”