Created on: February 13, 2013
Pope Benedict XVI shocked the global Catholic community, the world at large and even some of his closest aides when he announced his resignation, to take effect February 28, 2013. This is a truly historical event for it is the first time in 600 years that a pope has resigned
Delivering his resignation declaration in Latin, the universal language of the church, to a private gathering of cardinals in Vatican City, Benedict resigned with these words: “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.”
Although there are no specific health issues prompting the aging pontiff to step down, the pope’s brother, Georg Ratzinger, also a priest, stated, “He has gotten tired faster and faster and walking has become hard for him.” Ratzinger added that his brother did "the best he could have done” in his role.
The 85-year-old German pope was born April 16, 1927 and named Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger. He was ordained a priest after World War II. His rise to the highest position in the Catholic community occurred upon the death of Pope John Paul in 2005. His greatest challenge was coping with the upheaval created by the clerical sex scandals. He was both praised and criticized for his handling of that sensitive issue. Some admired his traditional stance while others thought he should have been more assertive and proactive in condemnation of those found guilty.
His retirement brings to a close the tenure of a traditionalist who preached a gospel of conservative faith to a fast-changing world.
Vatican spokesperson, Federico Lombardi, said the pope made his decision to resign “aware of the great problems the church faces today,” adding that the decision showed “great courage and determination.” He insisted that the pope’s decision was based on lack of personal stamina and not because of “difficulties in the papacy.”
Following the more outgoing and enormously popular Pope John Paul, Benedict never appeared to be comfortable with his prominence. He described himself as, “a simple, humble worker in God’s vineyard.”
The conclave to choose the next pope is expected to convene in March, with a new pope in place in time for the Holy Season of Easter. Lombardi said that Pope Benedict will not participate in the enclave to choose his successor, but is expected to retire to a monastery of cloistered nuns located on the Vatican grounds.
Praise and well wishes for the retiring pontiff reverberated around the globe, all similar in content to the tribute offered by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, Colorado, on his Facebook page:
“From his work as a young theologian at Vatican II to his ministry as universal pastor of the church, Joseph Ratzinger has served God and the global Christian community with intelligence, eloquence and extraordinary self-sacrifice.
As Pope Benedict XVII he has led God’s people through complicated times with uncommon grace, and his stepping down now, at 85, from the burdens of his office is another sign of his placing the needs of the Church above his own. Catholics worldwide owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude. He will remain in our hearts and always be in our prayers”
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