Surprise Announcement

Yesterday (Monday) Pope Benedict XVI announced plans to resign the papal office on February 28th. At what was to be a normal consistory for three canonizations, the Pope surprised everyone by resigning because of his deteriorating strength.

He stated:
“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 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 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 fulfil 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…”

He concluded by thanking those who have supported him in his ministry and asked pardon “for all my defects”. He said he would continue to serve the church through a life dedicated to prayer.

Cardinal Seán Brady said that Pope Benedict has resigned in circumstances of his own choosing.

“I think it is significant that he has chosen to make this announcement on the occasion of the World Day of the Sick, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. Our Lady always points us to her Son,” said the Cardinal. “With typical humility, courage and love for the Church he has clearly come to the view that the Lord now wants him to use his remaining physical and spiritual energies by serving the Church in prayer. I think this is a profound act of humility, a conscientious and responsible decision to hand over the ministry of the successor of Saint Peter in a time of great challenge for the Church and for faith in the modern world.”

On behalf of the Catholic Church in Ireland, and with his fellow Bishops, the Cardinal thanked the Pope for his “generous service of the Universal Church and for the great love and concern he has always shown for the Church in Ireland.”

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said that it is amazing that the Pope had continued with a full schedule up until now because his health was declining over the last month. He said that in meeting with the Pope to discuss Ireland, Benedict asked where are the points of contact between the Catholic Church in Ireland and those places where the future of Irish culture is being formed – a question which the Church in Ireland should be asking itself.

One of the Pope’s former students, Fr Vincent Toomey, said that at a gathering of the Pope’s former doctoral students last summer, the Pope was very alert, but very tired-looking and he greeted each student at the end of the meeting as if to say goodbye.

The Director of the Press Office of the Holy See, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, said that Pope Benedict XVI will move to the Papal residence in Castel Gandolfo initially and when renovation work on the monastery of cloistered nuns inside the Vatican is complete, the Holy Father will move there for a period of prayer and reflection.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was elected as the successor to Pope John Paul II on April 19th 2005. During his papacy Pope Benedict XVIth made 24 apostolic journeys abroad, and 30 within Italy. The first was to Cologne in Germany for the 20th World Youth Day in August 2005 and now it seems that his visit to World Youth Day in Rio 2013 is no longer possible. His most recent trip to the Lebanon was in September 2012. The Pope wrote three Encyclicals the latest being “Caritas in Veritate” published in 2009. He completed his “Jesus of Nazareth” trilogy on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ in November 2012.

by Ann Marie Foley

Full Text of Papal Statement

Dear Brothers,

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 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 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.

BENEDICTUS PP XVI
From the Vatican, 10 February 2013