Pope Benedict XVI announces his resignation in a special statement.
“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,” said Benedict, 85, according to the Vatican.
The head of the Catholic Church said he is too old to continue.
The Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said at a news conference, that Cardinals will meet to choose Benedict’s successor sometime after his official resignation on February 28,
“Before Easter, we will have the new pope,” he added.
Father Lombardi said the Pope would then move into a renovated monastery used by cloistered nuns inside the Vatican, for “a period of prayer and reflection”.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti is quoted as saying he was “greatly shaken by this unexpected news”.
” The Pope’s shock resignation on health grounds is an “eruption of modernity” into the Vatican, according to Ezio Mauro, chief editor of Italy’s La Repubblica daily.
This is the first papal resignation in nearly 600 years.
Joseph Ratzinger was born in Germany in 1927, joined Hitler Youth during WWII and was conscripted as an anti-aircraft gunner but deserted. He became Pope after John Paul II’s death, at age 78. He was one of the oldest new popes in history when elected in 2005.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger spent a lot of years in charge of Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – once known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition
” His attempts at inter-faith relations were mixed, with Muslims, Jews and Protestants all taking offence at various times, despite ongoing efforts to reach out and visits to key holy sites, including those in Jerusalem,” CNN reported.
A theological conservative, before and during his time as Pope, Benedict XVI has taken traditional positions on homosexuality and women priests, while urging abstinence instead of blessing the use of contraceptives.
“He took the helm as one of the fiercest storms the Catholic Church has faced in decades – the scandal of child sex abuse by priests – was breaking.
In a statement, the pontiff said: “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”
The Spanish daily El Mundo says Benedict XVI will be remembered as “God’s sweeper” – the man who tried to resolve the “numerous problems of the Church that did so much harm to its image”.
The editor of German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, Bernd Riegert, calls the Pope’s move “a courageous step, a revolutionary step”. “He has helped himself to freedom, he is setting boundaries. No longer will successors be able to cling onto their office.”
Former editor of the Catholic Herald, Damian Thompson, said the Pope has made a “brave move”