In a surprise overnight (Eastern Standard Time) announcement, Pope Benedict XVI said he will resign Feb. 28. It is the first time a Roman Catholic Pope has resigned in nearly 600 years.
“It was totally unexpected,” said Rev. Msgr. Donald E. Leighton of St. John Baptist Vianney Church in Gladwyne, of receiving the news Monday morning. The reaction from parishioners has been one of shock and amazement, he added. “I think it was a very courageous decision that the Pope made—recognizing his own human weaknesses and own health problems."
In an official statement posted on Vatican Radio's website, Pope Benedict, the 85-year-old leader of the Roman Catholic Chuch, cites fading strength and the demands of the job for his decision to step down.
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 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 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.
From the Vatican, 10 February 2013
BENEDICTUS PP XVI
What it means for a scheduled 2015 papal visit to southeastern Pennsylvania is unknown at this early stage.
Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput issued a statement Monday morning:
From his work as a young theologian at Vatican II to his ministry as universal pastor of the Church, Joseph Ratzinger has served God and the global Christian community with intelligence, eloquence and extraordinary self-sacrifice.
As Pope Benedict XVI, he has led God's people through complicated times with uncommon grace, and his stepping down now, at 85, from the burdens of his office is another sign of his placing the needs of the Church above his own. Catholics worldwide owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude. He will remain in our hearts and always be in our prayers.
Leighton said that he has seen Pope Benedict speak in Rome, and was impressed not just with the Pope’s presence, but also with the words he spoke. “I’ve always been in admiration of his insights and his expressions and explanations of church teaching," Leighton said.
“I’m sure he made the decision, as he said, after a lot of prayer and reflection,” Leighton added. “I think he made the decision for the good of the church.”
What do you think of the Pope's ministry and his decision to step down? Please tell us in the comments section at the bottom of this article.