Pope Benedict XVI Says He Will Resign

By ELISABETTA POVOLEDO and ALAN COWELL                                                Pope Retires
Published: February 11, 2013 Reposted

ROME — Citing advanced years and infirmity, Pope Benedict XVI stunned the Roman Catholic world on Monday by saying he would resign on Feb. 28 after less than eight years in office, the first pope to do so in six centuries.

After examining his conscience “before God,” he said in a statement that reverberated around the world on the Internet and on social media, “I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise” of his position as head of the world’s one billion Roman Catholics.

A profoundly conservative figure whose papacy was overshadowed by clerical abuse scandals, Benedict, 85, was elected by fellow cardinals in 2005 after the death of John Paul II.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said that the pope would continue to carry out his duties until Feb. 28 and that a successor could be elected by Easter, which falls on March 31. But, he added, the timing for the election of a new pope is “not an announcement, it’s a hypothesis.”

While there had been questions about Benedict’s health, the timing of his announcement sent shock waves around the world, even though he had in the past endorsed the notion that an incapacitated pope could resign.

“The pope took us by surprise,” said Father Lombardi, who explained that many cardinals were in Rome on Monday for a ceremony at the Vatican and heard the pope’s address. Italy’s prime minister, Mario Monti, said he was “very shaken by the unexpected news.”

The announcement plunged the Roman Catholic world into intense speculation about who will succeed him, and seemed likely to inspire many contrasting evaluations of a papacy that was seen as both conservative and contentious — though perhaps not so confrontational as many had feared of the man they called “God’s Rottweiler” for his tenacious defense of church doctrine.

The pope made his announcement in Latin, but his statement was translated into seven languages: Italian, French, English, German, Polish, Portuguese and Spanish.

“In today’s world,” the pope said, “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 St. 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,” he continued, “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 St. Peter.”

Silver-haired, stooped and cerebral, Benedict could well influence the choice of a successor because he has molded the College of Cardinals — the papal electoral body — by his appointment of kindred spirits during his papacy.

Vatican lore has it that cardinals seen as front-runners in advance of the vote rarely triumph, and Vatican-watchers say there is no clear favorite among several potential contenders: Cardinal Angelo Scola, the archbishop of Milan; Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, the archbishop of Vienna; and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Canadian head of the Vatican’s office for bishops.

There have also been calls for a pope to be chosen from the developing world, home to half of the world’s Catholics.

Benedict, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was elected on April 19, 2005.

At a news conference, the Vatican spokesman said the pope did not express strong emotions as he made his announcement but spoke with “great dignity, great concentration and great understanding of the significance of the moment.”

Father Lombardi said that the pope would retire first to his summer residence in Castelgandolfo, in the hills outside Rome, and later at a monastery in Vatican City