Pope to resign Feb. 28, says he's too old

Declaring that he lacks the strength to do his job, Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday he will resign Feb. 28 — becoming the first pontiff to step down in 600 years. His decision sets the stage for a mid-March conclave to elect a new leader for a Roman Catholic Church in deep turmoil.
Associated Press
Feb 11, 2013


The 85-year-old pope dropped the bombshell in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals, surprising even his closest collaborators even though he had made clear previously that he would step down if he became too old or infirm to carry on.

Benedict called his choice "a decision of great importance for the life of the church."

Indeed, the move allows the Vatican to hold a conclave before Easter to elect a new pope, since the traditional nine days of mourning that would follow the death of a pope doesn't have to be observed.

It will also allow Benedict to hold great sway over the choice of his successor, though he will not himself vote. He has already hand-picked the bulk of the College of Cardinals — the princes of the church who will elect the next pope — to guarantee his conservative legacy and ensure an orthodox future for the church.

"Without doubt this is a historic moment," said Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, a protege and former theology student of Benedict's who himself is considered a papal contender. "Right now, 1.2 billion Catholics the world over are holding their breath."

Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, the archbishop of Paris, called the decision a "liberating act for the future," saying popes from now on will no longer feel compelled to stay on until their death.

"One could say that in a certain manner, Pope Benedict XVI broke a taboo," he told reporters in Paris.

There are several papal contenders in the wings, but no obvious front-runner — the same situation when Benedict was elected pontiff in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II.

The Vatican stressed that no specific medical condition prompted Benedict's decision, that he remained fully lucid and took his decision independently.

"Any interference or intervention is alien to his style," Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said.

It has been obvious to all that the pope has slowed down significantly in recent years, cutting back his foreign travel and limiting his audiences. He now goes to and from the altar in St. Peter's Basilica on a moving platform to spare him the long walk down the aisle. Occasionally he uses a cane.

His 89-year-old brother, Georg Ratzinger, said doctors had recently advised the pope not to take any more trans-Atlantic trips.

"His age is weighing on him," Ratzinger told the dpa news agency. "At this age, my brother wants more rest."

Benedict emphasized that carrying out the duties of being pope requires "both strength of mind and body."

"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 the demands of being the pope, he told the cardinals.

"In order to govern the bark (ship) of St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary — strengths which in the last few months, have deteriorated in me," he said.

Popes are allowed to resign but church law says the decision must be "freely made and properly manifested." Still, only a handful have done it.

The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415 in a deal to end the Great Western Schism, a dispute among competing papal claimants. The most famous resignation was Pope Celestine V in 1294; Dante placed him in hell for it.

There are good reasons why others haven't followed suit, primarily because of the fear of a schism with two living popes. Lombardi sought to rule out such a scenario, saying church law makes clear that a resigning pope no longer has the right to govern the church.

"Therefore there is no risk of a conflict," he told reporters.

When Benedict was elected in 2005 at age 78, he was the oldest pope chosen in nearly 300 years. At the time, he had already been planning to retire as the Vatican's chief orthodoxy watchdog to spend his final years writing in the "peace and quiet" of his native Bavaria.

On Monday, Benedict said he would serve the church for the remainder of his days "through a life dedicated to prayer." The Vatican said immediately after his resignation, which takes effect at 8 p.m. Feb. 28, Benedict would go to Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer retreat south of Rome, and then would live in a cloistered monastery.

During his tenure, Benedict charted a very conservative course for the church, trying to reawaken Christianity in Europe where it had fallen by the wayside and return the church to its traditional roots, which he felt had been betrayed by an incorrect interpretation of the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

His efforts though, were overshadowed by a worldwide clerical sex abuse scandal, communication gaffes that outraged Jews and Muslims alike and, more recently, a scandal over leaked documents by his own butler. Many of his stated priorities as pope also fell short: he failed to establish relations with China, heal the schism and reunite with the Orthodox Church, or reconcile with a group of breakaway, traditionalist Catholics.

Still, most Vatican watchers saw his decision as the best thing to do for the church given his diminished capacities.

"It is an act ultimately of responsibility and love for the church," said the Rev. John Wauck, an Opus Dei priest who teaches at the Pontifical Holy Cross University in Rome.

All cardinals under age 80 are allowed to vote in the conclave, the secret meeting held in the Sistine Chapel where cardinals cast ballots to elect a new pope. As per tradition, the ballots are burned after each voting round; black smoke that snakes out of the chimney means no pope has been chosen, while white smoke means a pope has been elected.

There are currently 118 cardinals under age 80 and thus eligible to vote, 67 of whom were appointed by Benedict. However, four of them will turn 80 before the end of March. Depending on the date of the conclave, they may or may not be allowed to vote.

Benedict in 2007 passed a decree requiring a two-thirds majority to elect a pope, changing the rules established by John Paul who had decided that the voting could shift to a simple majority after about 12 days of inconclusive voting. Benedict did so to prevent cardinals from merely holding out until the 12 days had passed to push through a candidate who only had only a slim majority.

Contenders to be his successor include Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, Schoenborn, the archbishop of Vienna, and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Canadian head of the Vatican's office for bishops.

Longshots include Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York. Although Dolan is popular and backs the pope's conservative line, being from such a world super power will probably not count in his favor. That might also rule out Cardinal Raymond Burke, an arch-conservative and the Vatican's top judge, even if he is known and respected by most Vatican cardinals.

Given half of the world's Catholics live in the global south, there will once again be arguments for a pope to come from the developing world.

Cardinal Antonio Tagle, the archbishop of Manila, has impressed many Vatican watchers, but at 56 and having only been named a cardinal last year, he is considered too young.

Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson of Ghana is one of the highest-ranking African cardinals at the Vatican, currently heading the Vatican's office for justice and peace, but he's something of a wild card.

There are several "papabile" in Latin America, though the most well-known, Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, is considered far too liberal to be elected by such a conservative College of Cardinals.

Whoever it is, he will face a church in turmoil: The sex abuse scandal has driven away thousands of people, particularly in Europe, from the church. Rival churches, particularly evangelical Pentecostal groups in the developing world, pose new competition. And as the pope himself has long lamented, many people in an increasingly secular world simply believe they don't need God.

The timing of Benedict's announcement was significant: Lent begins this week on Ash Wednesday, the most solemn period on the church's calendar that culminates with Holy Week and Easter on March 31. It is also the period in which the world witnessed the final days of John Paul's papacy in 2005.

The timing means that there will be a very big spotlight cast on Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, the Italian head of the Vatican's culture office who has long been on the list of "papabile." Benedict selected him to preside over the Vatican's spiritual exercises during Lent.

By Easter Sunday the Catholic Church will have a new leader, a potent symbol of rebirth in the church that echoes the resurrection of Christ celebrated on Easter.

Benedict, then known as the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, had an intimate view as Pope John Paul II, with whom he had worked closely for nearly a quarter-century, suffered through the debilitating end of his papacy.

Benedict himself raised the possibility of resigning if he were simply too old or sick to continue on, when he was interviewed in 2010 for the book "Light of the World."

"If a pope clearly realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right, and under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign," Benedict said.

But he stressed that resignation was not an option to escape a particular burden, such as the sex abuse scandal.

"When the danger is great one must not run away. For that reason, now is certainly not the time to resign. Precisely at a time like this one must stand fast and endure the situation."

The announcement took the Vatican — and the rest of the world — by surprise.

Monday was a holiday at the Vatican, although some cardinals to name new saints. The announcement in Latin took cardinals in the room by surprise; others inside the Vatican who were listening in to the closed-circuit recording struggled to understand the Latin.

"All the cardinals remained shocked and were looking at each other," said Monsignor Oscar Sanchez of Mexico who was in the room when Benedict made his announcement.

Benedict was born April 16, 1927 in Marktl Am Inn, in Bavaria, but his father, a policeman, moved frequently and the family left when he was 2.

In his memoirs, Benedict dealt what could have been a source of controversy had it been kept secret — that he was enlisted in the Nazi youth movement against his will when he was 14 in 1941, when membership was compulsory. He said he was soon let out because of his studies for the priesthood. Two years later he was drafted into a Nazi anti-aircraft unit as a helper. He deserted the German army in April 1945, the waning days of the war.

He called it prophetic that a German followed a Polish pope — with both men coming from such different sides of World War II.

Benedict was ordained, along with his brother, in 1951. After spending several years teaching theology in Germany, he was appointed bishop of Munich in 1977 and elevated to cardinal three months later by Pope Paul VI.

John Paul named him leader of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1981 and he took up his post a year later. Following John Paul's death in 2005, he was elected pope April 19 in one of the fastest conclaves in history, just about 24 hours after the voting began.




Pope resigning? Ain't that an Apocalyptic sign or sumpthin'?

In a related note: Maybe NASA’s deliberately misinforming us about the path of the asteroid zippin’ by on Fri. cuz they don't want to cause a panic? :)

Estimated 750 sq. mi. plus blast area if it were to hit.

Better grab an extra can of beans and more shot gun shells just in case.


"Pope resigning? Ain't that an Apocalyptic sign or sumpthin'?"

The Big Dog's back

winnie, a job opening for you.




Owww, good one !

Eph 2 8-10


xdefiance's picture


This statue is in the Vatican and some say it represents the pineal gland in our brains. It is also on the popes staff. The pineal gland is shaped like a pine cone.


Looks like the artichoke in our brains.


"Pigna is the name of rione IX of Rome. The name means "pine cone" in Italian,"


Whatever the charlatans need to fool a gullible public in order to make a buck.


He's too pooped to Pope.

Finn Finn

That's cute. I like that. It was an incredibly humble decision to make, and I will miss him.


He's just tired of playing the church mascot, now they have to find someone new to wear the costume.


I nominate King Barack I.


that's Messiah Barack. Pope would be a demotion.


The odds makers have an African in the lead!



This oughta be interesting.


Isn't it time for a Pope from the "new" world?


I heard it had something to do with a secret about him during Nazi Germany, Im sure that would have been uncovered by now. New World Pope? interesting.

John Harville

Like every other boy in Germany he was a Hitler Youth... not a choice.


what are your sources queenjhb...or are you just spewing gossip and rumors?

The Big Dog's back

No secret, he was a Nazi.


For you as an admitted Marxist how is that any different?

John Harville

He was a Hitler Youth - as was every young male.


Careful Brutus, is Wikipedia an approved John Harville website. One must recieve special dispensation from John the Blogger.


fourth paragraph from the bottom of THIS story..he was a Nazi Youth at age 14...against his will. He never wanted to be the Pope, according to a story in Yahoo. He has also had problems with statements about not believing in the holocost, angering of the jews, the muslims and several other factions in Europe by his comments. He also made people within the church mad by forcing them to go back to reading all services in Latin. (again from the story in Yahoo). He has been dealing with a great deal of controversy since taking on this 'promototion' which he never wanted. Apparently now, with the lawsuits against same sex marriages and the sex trials of pediphiles within the church and not allowing women to do priests duties and not allowing priests to wed, he says his health cannot stand up to this much change. He wants out.


train, I think the History channel, as a young priest helping[ x- nazis or] nazis trying to get out of Germany, safely immigrate to S. America, I really didnt mean he was a nazi . He seems to have been an o.k. pope, his predicessor was great.

yogi bear

That would look great on a resume: Job experience- Pope

The Answer Person

He was a member of the Nazi Youth. When he took his office, a woman from his hometown was interviewed. She said "In those times we all had to make decisions. The Ratzingsers made theirs."

AJ Oliver

I left that church after they tried to wreck everything John XXIII stood for - the "modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council." It's gone so far that now their inquisition is even going after my nun buddies. On so many levels, they just don't see women as human beings. I'm outta there . . .

Truth or Dare

Too much political power on all fronts, and that includes the Leaders of Churches that have kissed the hand of the Catholic Hierarchy, aligning themselves, sending their Bishops/Lobbyists into D.C.. These Mega Churches in general want a voice that will dictate law! Let em start paying taxes like the rest of us! Such Hypocrisy is DUMBFOUNDING....and I'll start with the centuries old protection of Pedophile Priests and their sins against Children! It comes as no surprise they're going after their own Nuns!


What about public school union member pedofiles? Time to tax the SERS, STRS and other unions!

John Harville

Just can't pass up a chance, huh Con?
Use whatever you can to get in a coupla digs.

"We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give."
-- Churchill

So... Contango... are you a 'taker' or a 'giver'?


@ John Harville:

Yea, Jerry Sandusky set a fine example for public employees didn't he?

The double standard and hypocrisy, which you’re obviously missing, is: Why no globalizing of public union employees for Sandusky and others’ behavior as is done with the RCC?

LOL. I've got plenty of people to help support. No govt. "entitlements" here. You?



You are ranting and raving...again.

John Harville

Don't be fooled. It's the red slippers. Someone is in the wings. Like John XXIII he was intended to be a placeholder. Unlike XXIII, Benedict didn't shake things up or take any 'revolutionary' stands.

His resignation could be a great shepherding act for the Church - and as such might be his 'first miracle' on the trail to veneration....


I wonder if as a parting gift he gets to keep the pope mobile?

Actually, if anyone saw the HBO special Mea Maxima Culpa he's probably getting out before the heat gets too hot at the Vatican.


The RCC needs another Warrior Pope!

Lead Christ's soldiers into battle and send Satan a new supply of blasphemers, heretics and the unrepentant.





John Anglicus, born at Mainz, was Pope for two years, seven months and four days, and died in Rome, after which there was a vacancy in the Papacy of one month. It is claimed that this John was a WOMAN who as a girl had been led to Athens dressed in the clothes of a man by a certain lover of hers. There she became proficient in a diversity of branches of knowledge, until she had no equal.
Although I have no stake in what the Catholic's do, I think it's about time for this to happen again. Then we'll have Hillary in 2016 and shortly thereafter women will start to take over the world!!! (insert evil laugh)


@ meowmix:

Hillary 2016? Dream on.

#1. The Dems already threw her over the side once.

#2. She'll be 69 yrs. of age in 2016. This is a youth oriented culture.

#3. The Dems are tired of the Clintons - too moderate.


do a little fact checking on th timeline of popes throughout history. the pope joan myth is and has been proven to be that a myth. and for a women to be pope she first has to become a priest. and that is never gonna happen.


Fact check yourself. The history of the Popes is not a warm and fuzzy one.
You HAD to be a priest to become a pope?
Not so.
Some men bought the position.


you are correct in that activities like that did happen hundreds of years ago. I stand by my statement that for a person to become pope now they must not only be an ordained priest, but a bishop also.


That's now - but your main contention is that there was never a woman pope .
I've always read that to be true - that there was a woman pope.
When did it become a myth?


Sorry to dash your hopes of good gossip. Study the timeline of the popes it upholds the fact that it was a myth started by those who at the time tried to discredit the Church.
I guess I should've split my answer at first into two parts so as not to confuse you.


I'm hoping to find the truth.
I don't care about gossip because there already is plenty more to gossip about than the Pope Joan story.


@ Contango

#1. Wrong
#2. Wrong again
#3. Wrong 3 times.


@ meowmix:

Wow! Quite a well thought out repudiation of my points. :)

This I know: One of us will be wrong.

Keep smokin' that hopium.


Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks (including: name calling, presumption of guilt or guilt by association, insensitivity, or picking fights).


4shizzle--you crack me up!!! :}


He's made a wise decision. In regards to his youth... I'm sure glad none of us lived in Nazi Germany to have had made decisions like those.. Cannot imagine what people went through back then, The stories I was told were more than likely watered down versions.

Now then, it's about time some long reigning monarchs followed suit.

Maybe one day the papacy will be out or run as a senate type body instead of having a head honcho they'll have two or three. You just never know.

I'm not Catholic; so it doesn't matter to me, it'll be intereseting to watch , though.


85. Does he still drive? !!!!!


But he can't drive 55.


Just to church on sunday.........


Is he selling his pope mobile?
Drove only to church...low mileage...sounds like a good deal.