His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, had gathered in a consistory (an assembly of cardinals convoked by the pope) including members of the Papal Household, and the College of Cardinals, for the canonization of the martyrs of Otranto. He chose that occasion, according to ANSA Italian News, to announce in Latin a decision that left the assembled churchmen in “deepest silence and confusion.” Pope Benedict declared that he was retiring from the ministry of Bishop of Rome (his position as pope) for the reason of “ingravescentem aetatem” (advanced age); he said that his “strength of mind and body were no longer adequate to continue.”
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.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said in a news conference later that his holiness “took a little surprise.” the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo, called the resignation a “bolt from the blue.”
Benedict XVI, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, known by many as “God’s Rottweiler”, with his election in April, 2005, was one of the oldest new popes in history. Last year the pope began using a cane, and recently he appeared to have difficulty reading the texts of addresses. Now 85, Benedict became the pontiff following the death of John Paul II. Benedict XVI will leave on February 28; the Vatican says Pope Benedict’s resignation means the papacy will be vacant until a successor is chosen.
The New York Times on April 26, 2005, Pope Benedict’s first day as pope, wrote that Benedict XVI reached out to Muslims, saying he was grateful for their presence at his investiture ceremony. The new pope, they wrote, hoped for growth of dialogue between Muslims and Christians.
The Jamaica Gleaner on April 21, 2005 declared that Benedict, the 265th pontiff in the history of the Catholic Church had become the first German Pope since the 11th century. They wrote that Benedict may be construed an “interim pope”. “In fact, he may have been seen by the 115 Cardinals who elected him as an ‘interim’ Pope, one who can provide a necessary interlude of stasis after the dynamic and charismatic reign of his predecessor.”
The Huffington Post on April 16, 2010, wrote:
Benedict, elected as an “interim pope” by cardinals seeking a breather after nearly three decades of the charismatic John Paul II, is now marking five years as a successor to St. Peter. But the anniversary of his election on April 19, 2005 is clouded by a worldwide sex abuse scandal that touches Benedict himself, follows earlier controversies involving ties with Islam, and is causing the gravest crisis to hit the church in recent times.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, was born at Marktl am Inn, Germany, on Holy Saturday, April 16, 1927, and was baptized on that same day. He grew up near Salzburg, near the Austrian border, in an environment he calls “Mozartian.” He grew up in a difficult period when the Nazi regime pursued a hostile attitude toward the Catholic Church. It is said that the young Joseph saw how some Nazis beat the parish priest before the celebration of Mass. During the closing months of WWII, he was enrolled in the anti-aircraft corps. From 1946 to 1951 he studied philosophy and theology at the University of Munich. He was ordained a priest on June 29, 1951. He gained his Doctorate in Theology, and qualified for University teaching, with theses on the Doctrine of St Augustine, and the Theology of History in St. Bonaventure, respectively. On March 25, 1977, Pope Paul VI named him Archbishop of Munich and Friezing.
Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, chose as his episcopal motto: “Cooperators of the truth.”
On the one hand I saw it as the relation between my previous task as professor and my new mission. In spite of different approaches, what was involved, and continued to be so, was following the truth and being at its service. On the other hand I chose that motto because in today’s world the theme of truth is omitted almost entirely, as something too great for man, and yet everything collapses if truth is missing.
As President of the “Preparatory Commission for the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” he presented in 1992 six years of work by that commission, a new Catechism (a full statement of beliefs) to be utilized by all Catholics worldwide.
Ratzinger published many papers, including his “Introduction to Christianity,” a compilation of University lectures on the Apostolic Creed, and “Dogma and Preaching,” an anthology of essays, sermons and reflections dedicated to pastoral arguments.
In The Huffington Post article mentioned earlier credited to Associated Press writer Nicole Winfield had harsh criticism for the Catholic pope. On March 16, 2010 the article “Pope Benedict XVI: Five Years In, Not The ‘Breather’ The Vatican Hoped For,” made reference to worldwide sex scandals and controversies involving ties with Islam causing “The gravest crisis to hit the church in recent times.” “Since a 2006 speech in which Benedict angered Muslims by appearing to suggest the prophet Muhammad spread a message of violence, the papacy has been marked by missteps, mismanagement and media disasters.”
Giovanni Maria Vian, editor of the Vatican’s daily newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, cited communications problems in response to criticism. “Let’s be clear. Everyone has communications problems. One could do better.” Vian stressed that the pope still enjoys the full support of his collaborators and has been undeterred by the sex abuse maelstrom. “They say the pope is alone, that the Vatican is a nest of snakes,” Vian said. “It’s obvious that in such a big world there are different sensibilities. But with all tranquility and serenity, the Curia is with the pope. There are no unfaithful servants.”
Benedict XVI often was repentant regarding the victims of pedophile priests. In 2008 he visited the United States where he apologized for the sex abuse scandal there and met with victims.
We turn a page in the ongoing history of the world, and of the Catholic Church. As this pontiff steps down, we wonder what will happen in Vatican City. Catholics will watch for white smoke, as the College of Cardinals burns ballots while choosing a new successor to the apostle Peter, the first pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church.