Pope Benedict XVI announced this morning that he is resigning from his position of Petrine ministry. From the Holy Father:
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 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.
This is the first time in nearly six-hundred years that a pope has resigned! Today is a day of history for our Church and for the whole world. I am still rather stunned by this news (as is my husband, who was awakened by my startled exclamations before even opening his eyes). Who would have seen this coming on a bleak February day, just 48 hours before the start of Lent?
The first question many people had was “Can a Pope do that?” Yes, he can. In this case, Pope Benedict cites his deteriorating health as reason for his resignation. Because a Pope can never be removed from office, perhaps he desires to circumvent future physical and mental impediments to the ministry before they arise. I can hardly fathom the depths of humility it must have taken for the Holy Father to make such a decision. (As a side note, I do speculate that media coverage will wane once its generally discovered that scandal played no role in this announcement.)
Pope Benedict XVI will officially give up his papal office on the twentieth hour of February 28th, 2013. At that time, the Chair of Peter will be vacant and a time of interregnum will ensue. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the Cardinal-electors will appoint the new Pope. As a very recent convert to the Church, I am absolutely thrilled to use this historical time to learn more about Church government and of course, to bear witness to the choosing of a new Pope – and all before Easter! I can’t wait to see that white smoke. :) It is a really cool time to be a Catholic and I, for one, am glad to be one today.