Resignation of Pope Benedict XVI

by bostoncatholicinsider

BCI was shocked, as everyone in the world was, over the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.  We have nothing new to add about the surprise factor that other commentators have not already said, or the concerns to Catholics about him abdicating.

We restate the Holy Father’s words:

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.

However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to steer the boat of Saint 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 recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.

Here are a few articles and posts that may help put this decision in even further context:
Pope Benedict XVI told interviewer Peter Seewald in remarks published in “Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times,” he would consider resigning for health reasons in 2010:

“If a pope clearly realises that he is no longer physically, psychologically and spiritually capable of handling the duties of an office, then he has a right and, under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign…When the danger is great, one must not run away. For that reason, now is certainly not the time to resign…” though, “one can resign at a peaceful moment or when one simply cannot go on. But one must not run away from danger and say that someone else should do it.”
In that same interview, he also said:
“I trust that our dear Lord will give me as much strength as I need to be able to do what is necessary. But I also notice that my forces are diminishing. It is correct that as Pope one has even more cause to pray and to entrust oneself entirely to God. For I see very well that almost everything I have to do is something I myself cannot do at all. That fact already forces me, so to speak, to place myself in the Lord’s hands and to say to him: “You do it, if you want it!” In this sense prayer and contact with God are now even more necessary and also even more natural and self-evident than before.
In 2009 and 2010, the Holy Father visited the tomb of a medieval Pope named St. Celestine V and a cathedral where he venerated relics of the saint. Celestine was elected to the papacy shortly before his 80th birthday, and was the first pope to abdicate the papacy. This article tells us a bit about Celestine V:
On July 4, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI made his second trip to the earthquake-ravaged town of L’Aquila to venerate the relics of his long-ago predecessor, Pope and St. Celestine V, who died in 1296. Few predicted then that just a few years later, Benedict and Celestine would be locked together in history as the two popes who retired, theoretically voluntarily, because of their age.
Here is what Celestine wrote: “We, Celestine, Pope V, moved by legitimate reasons, that is to say for the sake of humility, of a better life and an unspotted conscience, of weakness of body and of want of knowledge, the malignity of the people, and personal infirmity, to recover the tranquility and consolation of our former life, do freely and voluntarily resign the pontificate.”

A little more than a year ago, on April 29, 2009, Benedict did something unusual. He left his own “pallium,” the sign of his episcopal authority and his connection to Christ, on a tomb in Aquila, Italy. The tomb held the remains of a relatively obscure medieval Pope named was Celestine V (1209-1296). (See the photo below; the pallium is the white cloth the Pope is putting on top of the tomb.)



When Pope Benedict went to write his letter of resignation, there can be little doubt that he turned to Celestine’s example, the “papal bull” (official letter) from 1296 that affirmed the right of the pope to resign and the legal canons that followed codifying the practice. For the Catholic Church, those 13th-century words stand as relevant and legally valid.

Commenting on Celestine at the time, the Holy Father said:

“St. Celestine V was able to act according to his conscience in obedience to God, hence without fear and with great courage even in difficult moments … not fearing to lose his dignity but knowing that it consists in existing in truth.”
He also defended Celestine’s retreat into seclusion: “In his choice of the hermit life might there not have been individualism or an escape from responsibility? This temptation does of course exist. But in the experiences approved by the Church, the solitary life of prayer and penance is always at the service of the community, open to others,” Benedict said.
“Hermits and monasteries are oases and sources of spiritual life from which all may draw.”

The brother of the Holy Father, Georg Ratzinger said: “The decision was no surprise. “He has been thinking about it for several months. “He concluded that his powers are falling victim to age….he feels that a younger person is needed to deal with the problems of the times.”

Here are several other pieces you might find worthwhile reading:

On Pope Benedict’s Resignation, by Thomas More College President Fahey
Did the Wolves Win? Or Has the Holy Father Discovered a Way to Outsmart the Wolf Pack?

The Holy Father, in his own words and those told through his brother, is clearly, not giving up the fight, but is instead handing over the battle to  a younger pope more physically and mentally capable of fighting the fight against evil for the Roman Catholic Church.
What to do now?  As commentator, Michael Matt, said: “Pray incessantly for a younger but still tradition-minded successor who will attempt to carry on the reforms Pope Benedict was quite obviously prevented from continuing. May God help us all, and may He bless and protect his Church under siege from the world and in near total chaos internally. We pray for Pope Benedict, and ask our merciful God to watch over and protect him now and always.”

bostoncatholicinsider | February 12, 2013 at 7:33 am | Tags: pope benedict xvi | Categories: Uncategorized | URL:

When will the conclave start?
by Dr. Edward Peters
It will be interesting to see whether Benedict XVI, who remains fully pope until Feb 28, modifies John Paul II’s ap. con. Universi Dominici Gregis (1996) by which special laws are laid down for the conclave that elects the pope.
In particular, one wonders whether the timing of the conclave will be moved up from what is set out in UDG 37, namely, “from the moment when the Apostolic See is lawfully vacant [i.e., Feb 28], the Cardinal electors who are present must wait fifteen full days for those who are absent; the College of Cardinals is also granted the faculty to defer, for serious reasons, the beginning of the election for a few days more. But when a maximum of twenty days have elapsed from the beginning of the vacancy of the See, all the Cardinal electors present are obliged to proceed to the election.”* My emphasis.
It would appear from this that the conclave may not start until March 15, at the earliest, and must begin by the 20, at the latest. That seems a long time to wait, frankly—and the anticipated delay might yet occasion a papal derogation from UDG in this regard—but, absent such a clear directive, waiting would be far better than doing anything to cause doubt about something as momentous as a papal conclave.
*The language about waiting for those who are absent seems descriptive, not qualifying, in nature, unless one wants to start fretting about the obligation to wait for single “late” elector to arrive, or splitting hairs over who is “absent” versus who is “excused”, and so on. Personally, I don’t like obiter dicta in legislation, but Roman documents often contain such phrases.

Dr. Edward Peters | February 12, 2013 at 9:48 am | Categories: Uncategorized | URL:

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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