Pope Benedict XVI To Resign at End of Month, Vatican Says

Tony Gentile / Reuters

Pope Benedict XVI waves as he leads the Sunday angelus prayer in Saint Peter Square at the Vatican February 10, 2013.

(VATICAN CITY) — Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday that he would resign on Feb. 28 because he was simply too infirm to carry on — the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years. The decision sets the stage for a conclave to elect a new pope before the end of March.

The 85-year-old pope announced his decision in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals on Monday morning.

(MORE: The Pope’s Resignation Announcement)

He emphasized that carrying out the duties of being pope — the leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics worldwide — requires “both strength of mind and body.”

“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,” he told the cardinals. “I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only by words and deeds but no less with prayer and suffering.

“However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of St. 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.”

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.

Benedict called his choice “a decision of great importance for the life of the church.”

The pope’s brother, Georg Ratzinger, says the pontiff had been advised by his doctor not to take any more transatlantic trips and had been considering stepping down for months. Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday that he would resign Feb. 28. Talking from his home in Regensburg to the news agency dpa, Georg Ratzinger said his brother was having increasing difficulty walking and that his resignation was part of a “natural process.” “His age is weighing on him,” the 89-year-old said of his 85-year-old brother. “At this age my brother wants more rest.” Georg Ratzinger did not answer his telephone for calls seeking further comment.

The move sets the stage for the Vatican to hold a conclave to elect a new pope by mid-March, since the traditional mourning time that would follow the death of a pope doesn’t have to be observed.

There are several papal contenders in the wings, but no obvious front-runner — the same situation when Benedict was elected pontiff in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II.

When Benedict was elected pope at age 78 — already the oldest pope elected in nearly 300 years — he had been already planning to retire as the Vatican’s chief orthodoxy watchdog to spend his final years writing in the “peace and quiet” of his native Bavaria.

Contenders to be his successor include Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, the archbishop of Vienna, and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Canadian head of the Vatican’s office for bishops.

Longshots include Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York. Although Dolan is popular and backs the pope’s conservative line, the general thinking is that the Catholic Church doesn’t need a pope from a “superpower.”

All cardinals under age 80 are allowed to vote in the conclave, the secret meeting held in the Sistine Chapel where cardinals cast ballots to elect a new pope. As per tradition, the ballots are burned after each voting round; black smoke that snakes out of the chimney means no pope has been chosen, while white smoke means a pope has been elected.

Popes are allowed to resign; church law specifies only that the resignation be “freely made and properly manifested.”

Only a handful have done so, however and there’s good reason why it hasn’t become commonplace: Might the existence of two popes — even when one has stepped down — lead to divisions and instability in the church? Might a new resignation precedent lead to pressures on future popes to quit at the slightest hint of infirmity?

Benedict himself raised the possibility of resigning if he were simply too old or sick to continue on in 2010, when he was interviewed for the book “Light of the World.”

“If a pope clearly realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right, and under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign,” Benedict said.

The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had an intimate view as Pope John Paul II, with whom he had worked closely for nearly a quarter-century, suffered through the debilitating end of his papacy.

___

Daniela Petroff contributed from Vatican City.

PHOTOS: Pope Benedict XVI in Germany

88 comments
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alivadsirhc
alivadsirhc

@PopeBXVInews Hope you're not resigning to avoid the issue with all the hidden priest. Please do the right thing before you step down! WWJD?

dianemoran
dianemoran

@WalksofItaly He probably saw the movie Habemus Papam!!!

rohanborpujari
rohanborpujari

@Xenna_Rahman didn't know it was a job. 1st 'resignation' since the 14th century. Probably tired of being behind 'bullet-proof glass' faith.

Juliatweetspgh
Juliatweetspgh

@TIME @TIMEWorld funny there’s no mention of the *real* reason why he’s resigning.

FREDRICZUNDA
FREDRICZUNDA

WHY ARE YOU RESIGNING CAUSE MILINGO OF ZAMBIA ALSO RESIGNED AND WAS HELD IN SECLUSION FOR THE SIN OF RESIGNING TO GET MARRIED. IS THERE SUCH A THING AS RESIGN IF YOU ARE IN SERVICE OF THE LORD. HE SHOULD ALSO BE PUNISHED.

miceland
miceland

@redsaid1 i once had a John Paul II commemorative shirt.

Da6165
Da6165

@MMoon_WREG3 @TIMEWorld Resign? Is he dying?

KKPKabe
KKPKabe

@popebxvinews That is a bravery move POPE title comes with responsibilities whch are expected tobe performed @ all times

Everisto_Kamera
Everisto_Kamera

@zenzele: am betting my last dollar on that one, baba. Some dogs are too old to learn decency!

begottensun
begottensun

@kubatana @gib_zzz resigning, why: because he’s a Nazi and supports and aids and is also probably a pedophiles

SinnFrei
SinnFrei

@begottensun Dummkopf. He never was a Nazi

gib_zzz
gib_zzz like.author.displayName 1 Like

@begottensun he feels he is too old and frail to carry out his mandate efficiently.

gib_zzz
gib_zzz like.author.displayName 1 Like

@kubatana Am sure he could have hung onto the post for a good 5 more years.Have respect for XVI, resigning takes great courage and character

graceHQsky
graceHQsky

@SharrelWright couldn't do it I'd miss the sex

CamngcaMda
CamngcaMda

@hAngwi_m His given it away by "both strength of mind and body are necessary-strengths which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me"

TheLovelyGuitar
TheLovelyGuitar

@Panda_Ndeshi last time a Pope resigned was about 600 years ago vati, so I am shocked. :"""D

Panda_Ndeshi
Panda_Ndeshi

Ne? But how do u quit a "God-given" calling? :''''D @TheLovelyGuitar

TheLovelyGuitar
TheLovelyGuitar

@Panda_Ndeshi :"""""D oshili the Pope is hiding the truth.

tibiltubal
tibiltubal

@ZuracLyrech @TIMEWorld 2 weeks left nalang!

johnedwinmason
johnedwinmason

@redsaid1 Always happy to see you reappear. Hope all's well.

AntiquaTours
AntiquaTours

@BrowsingRome @ArleneAGibbs oh please.. Remember how sick JP2 was?

BrowsingRome
BrowsingRome

@AntiquaTours Yeah really! As they are often at an advanced age when voted as Pope, health issues are a given @arleneagibbs

Coyoty
Coyoty like.author.displayName 1 Like

They should never have introduced him to Twitter.  Now he can't get anything done.

ArleneAGibbs
ArleneAGibbs like.author.displayName 1 Like

@BrowsingRome @AntiquaTours I'm not Catholic but I hope the next Pope is not a hardliner like this one. Basta.

SinnFrei
SinnFrei like.author.displayName 1 Like

@ArleneAGibbs And how, as a Non-Catholic, do you know he is a hardliner? Perhaps by not following every new trend? That's what Catholics expect from their pope. Being steadfast, even if one doesn't not agree to everything he says.

AntiquaTours
AntiquaTours

@ArleneAGibbs @BrowsingRome the Church needs a New World pope

ArleneAGibbs
ArleneAGibbs

@AntiquaTours @BrowsingRome Maybe one of the front runners from last time will be picked.

Momielee
Momielee

And he just started tweeting!“@TIME: BREAKING NEWS: AP reports Pope Benedict to resign on Feb. 28 | http://t.co/kumhrNGg (via @TIMEWorld)”

wforsythe
wforsythe

RT@TIME: BREAKING NEWS: AP reports Pope Benedict to resign on Feb. 28 | http://t.co/EjuhmwdJ (via @TIMEWorld) What's going on here?

S1ngMe2Sleep
S1ngMe2Sleep

@Orthae @TIME @TIMEWorld @joerogan 2/28 is the birth date of the Messiah. RT BREAKING NEWS: AP reports Pope Benedict to resign on Feb. 28