Monday, 11 February 2013 / Rome
• Resignation comes without any real prior warning or public speculation.
• Pontiff says his age means he lacks strength to do job
• Has been known to suffer from arthritis
• Post your comments about the Pope's resignation below
Pope Benedict XVI intends to resign at the end of this month as he feels he lacks the energy to continue in the job, his spokesman said Monday. The resignation, which will be effective at 1900 GMT on Feb. 28, means that a new pope should be in place by Easter, the Vatican spokesman said.
Pope Benedict, who became the 265th Pope in 2005, is known to suffer from arthritis, particularly in his knees, hips and ankles.
He had been due to travel to Brazil - the largest Catholic country in the world - in July for a youth festival, but concerns had been raised privately among Vatican observers about whether his health would be strong enough.
This isn't the first time a Pope has resigned, notes Alex Fenton-Thomas of The Guardian, UK. “The best known example involved Pope Celestine V in 1294. After only five months as the Bishop of Rome, he issued a solemn decree declaring it possible that a pope can resign and then promptly did so. He then lived the rest of his days as a hermit and was later canonised.
His papal decree ended any debate over whether a pope can justify standing down during his lifetime.
Before Celestine, the only other two pontiffs to resign were the current Pope's namesake Benedict IX in 1045 and his successor Gregory VI the year after.
Gregory had schemed to get rid of Benedict, who had been beset by a succession of financial scandals. After persuading the disgraced incumbent to resign in 1045, and then becoming his successor as Gregory VI, he also resigned the following year after he was accused of benefiting financially from Benedict's demise.
The last time a pope resigned was Pope Gregory XII in 1415. He stood down to end the "Western Schism", which threatened to shatter Roman Catholicism. Two rival claimants had declared themselves pope in Avignon and Pisa and, with the help of the wily Italian politician Malatesta, Gregory's resignation helped unite the church at the Council of Constance in 1415”.
Meanwhile bookmakers seem to be agreed on the composition of the ‘Top 3’ contenders for the papacy.
1. Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson (Ghana)
2. Cardinal Marc Ouellet (Canada)
3. Cardinal Francis Arinze (Nigeria)
Others include Cardinal Angelo Scola and Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga.
Read the Pope’s Statement below
I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonisations, 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 recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfil 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