|Pope Benedict XVI resigns|
|Tuesday, 12 February 2013 00:00|
POPE Benedict XVI yesterday shocked the world when he told Cardinals at a meeting at the Vatican yesterday morning that he would step down as head of the Catholic Church on February 28. He
becomes the first pope to resign in 600 years after Gregory XII who resigned in 1415 after leading the church for five months.
Pope Benedict (85) succeeded Pope John Paul II who died in 2005.
Pope Benedict told the Cardinals in Latin, “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 leading the world’s one billion Roman Catholics.
“In today’s world and 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 St 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 recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.
“For this reason,” he continued, “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 St Peter.”
Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Congress secretary-general Father Frederick Chiromba said they have accepted the pope’s resignation.
“It is a total surprise when most Catholics were still expecting a lot from him given his academic background and intellect. Catholics in Zimbabwe perceived that he would implement what he saw on the word of God.
“It is understandable he chose to step down given he was relying on a pacemaker and that could have been the reason why he chose to step down. Possibly it was difficult for him to conduct duties expected from him and we wish him all the best.
“We hope he will continue to inspire Catholics throughout the whole world after his resignation,” Father Chiromba said.
Pope Benedict has expressed his wish to continue to serve the Catholic church “through a life dedicated to prayer”.
His brother Georg Ratzinger told AFP that the Pope was finding it difficult to walk and had been advised to stop making transatlantic journeys.
“The reason for his resignation is indeed that he is feeling the burden of his age... I have known for a few months that this (the resignation) was planned.
“He knows the demands of the office. I think his decision is correct. It is a positive thing that he is handing over the office to younger hands,” said Ratzinger, four years the pope’’s senior.
According to reports, in recent months, he had often seemed tired and “even appeared to doze off during Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, after being brought to the altar of Saint Peter’s on a wheeled platform. But few expected the Pope to resign so suddenly, even though he had said in the past that he would consider the option.”
Reacting to the announcement, Vatican spokesperson Rev Federico Lombardi said, “The Pope took us by surprise”.
“He will honour his commitments until he steps down. Lombardi said this was Benedict’s own personal decision. Upon resigning, he will go to the papal summer residence near Rome, and then will move to a cloistered residence in the Vatican, which may make life difficult for his successor.”
Father Lombardi also announced that Pope Benedict XVI would continue to carry out his duties until February 28 at 8 pm, and that a successor would likely be elected by Easter, which falls on March 31.
But he said the timing for an election of a new Pope is “not an announcement, it’s a hypothesis.”
Ghana’s Cardinal Peter Turkson, Nigeria’s Cardinal Francis Arinze, Canada’s Cardinal Marc Ouellet, and Italy’s Angelo Scola are emerging as some of the leading candidates to succeed Pope Benedict XVI.
One of the next pope’’s first trips abroad is likely to be to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day on 1 July.
Pope Benedict XVI was born on April 16, 1927, in Marktl am Inn, in the predominantly Catholic southern German region of Bavaria.
The Pope was elected to the papacy on April 19 in 2005 when he was 78.
Pope Benedict confronted his own country’s past when he visited the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz. - Herald Reporter/agencies.