Monday, February 11, 2013


Pope Benedict XVI to step aside on Feb. 28

The 85-year-old pope says he no longer has the strength to carry out his duties, announcing that he will resign effective February 28. NBC's Claudio Lavanga reports from Rome, who says the resignation "came as a shock."
Updated at 10:12 a.m. ET: ROME -- Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday he will step aside as leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics on Feb. 28, saying he no longer has the strength to carry out his duties.
Speaking in Latin, the 85-year-old announced his decision during an address at the "Concistory for the canonization of the martyrs of Otranto", a small event held early in the morning. 
The decision makes him the first pope to resign since the Middle Ages.
His statement was posted on the Vatican Radio website. Carrying out the duties of being pope required "both strength of mind and body," it said.
"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," the pontiff's statement said.
The choice was a "decision of great importance" for the church, the statement added.
In an announcement that stunned Catholics around the world, Pope Benedict XVI revealed he will be stepping down from his position, citing failing strength. NBC's Michelle Kosinski reports on his eight years as pope.
German news agency dpa quoted the pontiff's brother, Georg Ratzinger, as saying his brother was increasingly struggling to walk and had been contemplating stepping aside for several months. "His age is weighing on him," he reportedly added.
There are several papal contenders in the wings, but no obvious front-runner, The Associated Press reported.
It added:
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.
Reuters quoted a Vatican spokesman as saying the pontiff did not fear schism in the Church following his resignation.
Luke Coppen, editor of UK newspaper The Catholic Herald, told the Daily Telegraph: "Pope Benedict's pontificate has been full of surprises. This is the biggest one of all."
'A decision of great courage'Archbishop Vincent Nichols, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, said that the pope's announcement had "shocked and surprised everyone."
The archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, explains the "mixed emotions" he feels about the news that Pope Benedict XVI will resign on February 28, saying he feels a "special bond" with the pope.
"Yet, on reflection, I am sure that many will recognize it to be a decision of great courage and characteristic clarity of mind and action," he added.
Born in Bavaria, Germany, in 1927, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became the 265th pope in April 2005, describing himself "a simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord." 
Reuters noted:
Ratzinger served in the Hitler Youth during World War Two when membership was compulsory. He was never a member of the Nazi party and his family opposed Adolf Hitler's regime. 
His tough stance on theological issues had earned him the nickname "God's rottweiler." He was the oldest pope elected in nearly 300 years, according to The Associated Press.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she respected Pope Benedict's decision to step down.
"If the pope himself, after thorough reflection, has come to the conclusion that he doesn't have the strength anymore to carry out his duties, then this has my utmost respect," she said at press conference on Monday.
NBC New Vatican analyst George Weigel gives his thoughts on Pope Benedict XVI's announcement of his resignation, and explains how a new pope will be selected.
She also praised him as "one of the most remarkable thinkers of our age."
The last pope to step aside was Gregory XII in 1415, who did so in order to end the Great Western Schism. 
Greg Burke, senior communications adviser to the Holy See, confirmed the pope will step down on February 28 at 8 p.m. local time (2 p.m. ET), leaving the office vacant until a successor is chosen.
The Associated Press added:
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.
Reuters noted that Benedict XVI "ruled over a slower-paced, more cerebral and less impulsive Vatican."
It added:
But while conservatives cheered him for trying to reaffirm traditional Catholic identity, his critics accused him of turning back the clock on reforms by nearly half a century and hurting dialogue with Muslims, Jews and other Christians. ...

After appearing uncomfortable in the limelight at the start, he began feeling at home with his new job and showed that he intended to be pope in his way.
Despite great reverence for his charismatic, globe-trotting predecessor -- whom he put on the fast track to sainthood and whom he beatified in 2011 -- aides said he was determined not to change his quiet manner to imitate John Paul's style. ... 
The first German pope for some 1,000 years and the second non-Italian in a row, he traveled regularly, making about four foreign trips a year, but never managed to draw the oceanic crowds of his predecessor.
Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005. Look back at his life from childhood through his papacy.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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