POPE BENEDICT XVI is to resign at the end of this month, stating that he no longer has the strength of body and mind required for the role.
The Italian news agency Ansa reported the surprise decision this morning and it was later confirmed by spokesman Federico Lombardi, who told AFP, “The pope announced that he will leave his ministry at 7pm (Irish time) on 28 February.”
In a written statement, the Pope said he wanted to “communicate 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.”
He said he believed that in today’s world, which is “subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith”, both strength of mind and body are needed for the role.
“Strength which in the last few months has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me,” he continued.
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.
Although unusual, resignation is allowed through canon law. Benedict XVI is the first pope to resign in centuries. The last pontifex to step down was Pope Gregory XII during the 1400s.
Aged 78 when he was elected, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was one of the oldest new popes in history. He is now 85 years old.
-Additional reporting AFP