All News & Blogs
Pope Benedict resigns
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.
Pope Benedict XVI
Feb. 11, 2013
WITH THOSE WORDS, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger announced he would step down from the papacy effective 8 p.m. on Feb. 28, becoming the first pope to resign in 600 years. His announcement sent shock waves through the world's 1.1 billion Catholics.
While Muslims have their imams, Protestants have their ministers and bishops, and other religions have their various leaders, Catholics have the Pope, their one infallible head, the inheritor, they believe, of the authority of St. Peter. Transitions in the papacy provoke concern, speculation, and even betting: Right now, the leading contender to succeed Pope Benedict, a Nigerian, is running 2-1 on London gambling sites.
Even non-Catholics observe these changes with interest: The Catholic Church is one of the oldest institutions in the world and the largest non-governmental provider of health and education services. The direction of the church, set by the pope, affects many who are not adherents to that faith.
Pope Benedict assumed the Chair of St. Peter in 2005 at the age of 78. Now, he says he is certain that "my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise." Generally, popes hang on until the bitter end. This pope, though known as a conservative, is breaking with that tradition.
Like most leaders, Pope Benedict will be remembered for both his achievements and his failures. A theologian by training, his 25 years in the Vatican's doctrinal office prior to becoming pope left him steeped firmly in the conservative traditions of the 2,000-year-old institution. As pope, he pronounced Catholicism the one true religion and others as deficient. Depending on which side of the fence one stood, his strong stand was either affirming or offensive.