Commission for Ecumenism & Interfaith Dialogue

Pope announces he will be stepping down


From Rome Reports

11 February: Benedict XVI will become the only Pope to see his successor, after announcing he will be stepping down as Pope during a consistory with cardinals, citing a lack of strength due to his age.

During the consistory, Benedict XVI stated “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 Holy Father said that in today’s fast-paced world, strength of mind and body are necessary to lead over one billion Catholics worldwide, and that his age has taken a toll on both.

Benedict XVI went on to say that his resignation will be effective as of 28 February.

“A Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is,” the Pope stated.

The current number of cardinals eligible to choose the next Pope stands at 118. By canon law, the consistory must be scheduled within 20 days of the resignation of Benedict XVI.

Starting at 8pm on the last day of February, all posts within the Vatican will remain vacant until a new Pope is elected, with the exception of the Camerlengo, the Major Penitentiary and the Vicar of Rome. The new Pontiff will canonise new saints on 12 May and attend World Youth Day 2013 in Rio in July.

The Bishop of Parramatta, Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP, said Australians know and love Benedict XVI as the Pope of World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney and the canonisation of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop.

He has also been one of the greatest ever teaching popes,” Bishop Anthony said.

Now we pray for wisdom for the Church as it chooses his successor.

In the 2,000-year history of the Church, only three other Popes besides Benedict XVI have voluntarily resigned their positions.

The first Pope recognised by the Church as having resigned by free will is Saint Clement I, who led the early Christian Church in the 1st Century.

In 1294, Celestine V was chosen after a conclave that lasted three years. However, just six months into his pontificate he announced his intention to resign because he considered himself unsuitable for the position. His resignation gave way to the Canon Law which allows Popes to resign at free will.

The third Pope to announce his intention to leave the Chair of Peter was Gregory XII in 1415. His resignation is seen as a sacrificial gesture to heal the Great Western Schism at the time.

Read the Pope’s full declaration at Vatican Radio

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