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Pope’s announcement stuns world leaders

By on Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Benedict XVI waving to the crowd in St Peter's Square (Photo: CNS)

Benedict XVI waving to the crowd in St Peter's Square (Photo: CNS)

Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement that he is to abdicate stunned religious and political leaders around the world.

From Africa to Europe, Asia and Latin America, Catholic leaders offered warm words of praise and pledged to pray for the 85-year-old Pontiff’s health. They pointed to Pope Benedict’s love of the Church as a key factor leading to his abdication.

“Only a great love for Jesus Christ, for his Church and great humility can lead someone to take such a step,” said Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino.

At the same time, European political leaders recalled the Pope for his humble nature and held up his work to unite the people of the world.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien of St Andrews and Edinburgh, Scotland, said he was “shocked and saddened” to hear of the Pope’s decision.

“I know that his decision will have been considered most carefully and that it has come after much prayer and reflection,” Cardinal O’Brien said.

He offered prayers from the Scottish Church for Pope Benedict “at this time of deterioration in his health as he recognises his incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to him”.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said the Pope’s announcement “has shocked and surprised everyone”.

“Yet, on reflection, I am sure that many will recognise it to be a decision of great courage and characteristic clarity of mind and action,” Archbishop Nichols said.

“The Holy Father recognises the challenges facing the Church and that ‘strength of mind and body are necessary’ for his tasks of governing the Church and proclaiming the Gospel.

“I salute his courage and his decision,” he added.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany, president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community, commended Pope Benedict for shaping the Church with his “clear theology” in an effort to overcome “the danger of Europe forgetting its Christian roots and eventually losing its soul”.

The Pope’s theological contributions will serve to inspire the Catholic Church throughout Europe and help build the Church around the world, he said.

Most Rev Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, said he learned of Pope Benedict’s resignation with a “heavy heart but complete understanding”. He offered thanks for the Pope’s priestly life “utterly dedicated in word and deed, in prayer and in costly service to following Christ”.

“He has laid before us something of the meaning of the Petrine ministry of building up the people of God to full maturity,” Archbishop Welby said.

He credited the Pope for his “witness to the universal scope of the Gospel and a messenger of hope at a time when Christian faith is being called into question”. He cited Pope Benedict’s teaching and writing for bringing a “remarkable and creative theological mind to bear on the issues of the day”.

“We who belong to other Christian families gladly acknowledge the importance of this witness and join with our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters in thanking God for the inspiration and challenge of Pope Benedict’s ministry,” Archbishop Welby added.

In Turkey Mgr Louis Pelatre, apostolic vicar of Istanbul, expressed surprise at Pope Benedict’s decision, telling Catholic News Service “no one expected this, even those very close to him. But we pray and go forward.”

“It was his personal decision. No one can influence him. We are no longer in a world where one can stay in the same position if he no longer feels he is no longer capable of fulfilling his duties. He was very tired. We know that and we saw that,” Mgr Pelatre said.

Like their counterparts elsewhere, African Church leaders said they were shocked by the papal announcement. Nigerian leaders in particular commended Pope Benedict for being “on the side of truth”.

Archbishop Matthew Ndagoso of Kaduna, Nigeria, called Pope Benedict’s papacy “remarkable” because of his ability of explain, teach and uphold Catholic doctrines and traditions.

“He [was able] to stand and defend them come rain or shine and has continue to uphold them as laid down by the founding fathers of the Church,” the archbishop said.

In Latin America, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, said his first reaction to the Pope’s announcement was one of “understanding, considering his frail health”.

“This is a tireless job, and he dedicates all his time to the Church. It is a decision of faith,” Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga said.

He told media in the Honduran capital that many of his fellow cardinals had wondered about Pope Benedict’s health.

“Although we didn’t know about this, we were thinking ‘How much longer can he be the head of the Church?’” the cardinal said.

A representative of the Mexican bishops’ conference was surprised by the announcement despite recognising Pope Benedict’s declining health.

“I thought at first, ‘This isn’t true’,” said Auxiliary Bishop Eugenio Lira Rugarcia of Puebla, secretary-general of the conference.

During an afternoon press conference, Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega of Guadalajara said during an afternoon press conference that during the transition to Pope Benedict’s successor the Church will continue to be guided by God.

“The Church won’t be left in the lurch,” the cardinal said.

“As Pope Benedict XVI has said, we are in God’s hands, which are the best hands,” he added.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, first among equal of Orthodox leaders, expressed sadness over Pope Benedict’s resignation, but credited him for leaving “an indelible mark on the life and history of the Catholic Church, sealed not only by his brief reign but also by his great contribution as a theologian”.

AsiaNews reported that the patriarch credited the Pope for being a “faithful servant of the sacred cause of union of us all”.

Jewish leaders in Israel credited Pope Benedict for strengthening relations between Jews and the Vatican.

Israel’s chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger said the pontiff contributed greatly to reducing anti-Semitism in the world, reported the Associated Press.

“I pray that his legacy is preserved and that the trends he led will continue since the relations between the rabbinate and the church during his term were the best ever,” Rabbi Metzger said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the Pope, a native of Germany, had her “utmost respect” for his decision to resign.

“The Pope’s words will accompany me for a long time to come,” said Mrs Merkel, the daughter of a Protestant pastor. She praised the Pontiff for maintaining “a lively interest in the process of European unification” as well as promoting interdenominational and interfaith dialogue.

US president Barack Obama fondly recalled meeting Pope Benedict in 2009 and said he “appreciated our work together over these last four years”.

“I wish the best to those who will soon gather” to choose his successor, he said.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, British Prime Minister David Cameron, and Philippine President Benigno Aquino were among other world leaders who expressed sadness over the Pope’s abdication and sent best wishes for his future.

  • Maccabeus

    A big mistake by the Pope. Sounds like he has had some sort of personal crisis, there is something flustered and hurried about this decision, something almost irrational. Certainly it is a powerfully negative symbol for the church. The Papacy symbolizes continuity, service in harness through to death, total submission to the papal mission, whatever the cost. Unfortunately, the implicit symbol provided by the Pope’s resignation is one of defeatism, loss of commitment, a retreat from the field of battle. To put it bluntly, and it pains me to say it – no matter what spin so many people in the Church and outside are trying to put on it – the Pope comes across as a ‘Quitter’. And that is the last thing the Church and the faithful need in these most trying and desperate of times.

  • teigitur

    Absolute tosh. He said in an interview several years ago, that any Pope who felt he could not give his all to the Church, through illness or whatever, not only could, but should resign.

  • FM

    Actually this decision was in the making certainly for months (or even years actually), It was not rushed. I do not think the Pope is a “quitter” nor comes out as such.

    “, the implicit symbol provided by the Pope’s resignation is one of defeatism, loss of commitment, a retreat from the field of battle.”

    Not really. If someone thinks he cannot give what the Church deserves anymore, and it’s best to pass the role to someone else, it might also be a WISE decision. If he really did not feel he could not carry the burden, it is better that he renounces his role as Pope, rather than linger on as a Pope who cannot give its best anymore.

    I think you are just reading defeatism and loss of commitment into it.

    Be real! He’s not a springy 20 years old. He’s almost 86, he has an heart condition and for 8 years he has been under continuous attack from people outside and inside the Church, something that would drive to the ground even a much younger man!

    How would YOU feel to have such weight on your shoulder and be under attack everyday from newspapers that distort your words, people who accuse you and attack you unjustly… plus the weith of age and disease.

    It’s easy to talk when we are not the ones filling the shoes.

  • Aline

    Pope Benedict has found the right balance between Pride and Service of the Church. The decision to be the first Pope to resign in 600 years has certainly not been taken lightly and he was certainly aware of the criticism he wouls be subjected to. 

    Unlike Blessed John Paul he may not have a Ratzinger to rely on to lead the Church during the transition until the election of the next Pope, and having carefully prepared his succession by appointing orthodox Cardinals to the Curia, he now gives the Church enough time to prepare.

    I believe this was all part of a plan and his brother is reported to have been aware of the Pope’s intention for a long time. This move is indeed courageous and is another sign of the man’s humility and love for the Church.

    What is needed at this time is prayer (and fasting as we enter the Lenten Season) so that the Lord will send us another saintly Pope.

    We will miss you Papa!

  • G Nearing

    due to his heart probelms and old age it is understandable why he chose to resign. His body was not up to the task and he wanted to leave it someone physically stronger than former german shepard. He was a wise old man that came from an ANTI NAZI FAMILYand was even better than Pope John Paul II when it came to dealling with sex abuse scandal from the 60′s, 70′s and 80′s. He also brought back Traditional Catholic Mass, fought against the sexual revolution, infuriated the Secular Left and made Orthodox Catholicism fashionable again. Overall, Not bad. The German Shepard has left the Her in good hands. God Bless Pope Benedict XVI

  • G Nearing

    Oh Did I forget to metion that it was the psychartry polices back in the mid 20th century that led to the sex scandal of many organizations and not just the church. See the study of sexuality back then was extremely young and just started  40 years ago. Sex abuse only started to be taken seriously in the 1980′s when they started reporteing it because back in the mid 20th century no body cared about child abuse because everyone thought it was alright to beat up your child in order to discipline them. studies show that highest case of sex abuse often come from  parents then teachers, then  priests. so is the catholic church extempt from criticism of sex abuse, of course not. but if your criticise us for sex abuse, look at the sex abuse at public schools and homes of dangerous that damage m ore kids than that of the church. But do we hear that from left wing journalists? No, cause that would acutally acquire them to be honest for once.

  • W Lewis513

    No Sir, Are we to witness another JPII who yes, struggled on for the world to see, but the Church was slipping away and he could do nothing, I woneif for the last few years who took on that duty so far as allowed, one Benedic XVI, and we now see the sum toatal ofh is committment, and he is not going to allow the church to becone ruddrless again. So to thing of the future, Europe and N.A are Dead. let us have a succussor  Africa, preferably Nigeria, Sri lanka of asia, perhpas for “true ecumenism” and Eastern Rite Cardinal 

  • Maccabeus

    I have not been elected as the Vicar of Christ on earth. Ratzinger was. Let’s be honest. The plain fact is  Ratzinger never really wanted this job in the first place, he has always been a more introspective, studious type who found the public stage something of a torture. And those who say resignation has been flagged in the past are right, I do not dispute it. In fact I think it further indicates that Ratzinger never wanted the job and has therefore finally taken the plunge, citing age as his excuse for a  ticket to the relative peace and quiet of a monastery. In today’s world,  however, fighting the good fight includes fighting against the marginalisation of the elderly, contempt for pain and the growing desire to simply eliminate it via euthanasia. Pope JP II gave a deeply moving example of fighting the good fight to the very end. That was in itself perhaps his most powerful sermon. Who can forget his gritty determination, despite his pain and weakness, to shoulder the Cross of Christ in the Good Friday ceremony in Rome? So calling a decision to do something one has always really wanted to do ‘courageous’ is, in my humble opinion, pure spiff-ball. Or, as the Italians would say, simply an example of the Vatican press office ‘mettendo buon viso al cattivo gioco’.

  • Maccabeus

    See my reply to FM.

  • Sweetjae

    Common brother, give some benefit of the doubt to the Holy Father, if not for the man. B16 is humble, simple and compassionate fatherlike to us all and he has done great service to his fellow Catholics and the Church as a whole.

    The reason for the renunciation NOT resignation (meaning one has superior to submit it to, the Pope is the highest Legislator of the Church and has no superior on earth) is due to the fact that he can no longer fulfill the duties of the Petrine Primacy to the fullest that the Church expected him due to health and age reasons.

    Do you know he has a heart problem and Pacemaker “installed” inside his body?

  • Sweetjae

    Lighten up, it’s a free and deliberate decision of the man (allowed by Canon Law) to renounce his Office, give respect.

    Long live B16!

  • teigitur

    I read it, you are still incorrect.

  • Cjkeeffe

    Nothing the Holy father does surprises me. He is a man of deep faith and love for God and teh world. His pontificate was a breath of freash air and he seized the nettle of abuse more robustly then his predeccssor – see the way he kicked Fr Marcial Marcel into touch, despite his being a favourite in teh curia.
    He has given teh curch the gift of preparing for a new pope in a climate of joy and not mourning and loss as would have happened if he died in office.

  • ThePharmacistofLanceArmstrong

    Does this Pope have a confused understanding of the Petrine ministry? One wonders if this confusion stems from the infallibility doctrine of the 1st Vatican Council. Newman anticipated the problems which the contemporary Church is experiencing as it has developed from Vatican II.
    For example, the Pope has published at least three books expressing a “personal view” during the papacy which indicates a confused understanding of his role. In addition he has given university lectures in the manner of an academic. It’s as if the Pope is using the infallibility doctrine to self-consciously or even unconsciously divide the papacy into fallible and infallible parts. It might be more accurate to say that Benedict decided on election to render his entire papacy “fallible” version as opposed to some sort of traditional or “infallible” version.  The net result is very confusing to the faithful already disoriented by Vatican II and its aftermath. Even the motu proprio was a mess. It came complete with a “letter to bishops” which served no practical purpose other than to contradict the very “mp” itself.
    My own view is that the Cardinals should follow the example of their predecessors in the 15th century who did NOT elect a successor to Gregory XII who was the last Pope to resign. Let’s leave the see vacant and not elect a successor to Pope Benedict. Such is the state of the Church, there is no point in having a Pope at the moment for the Church is ungovernable. Let Benedict XVI die in peace and bury him as Pope then summon a conclave in the normal way. We need to give ourselves and the poor Holy spirit a break – a papacy is wasted on us at the moment.

  • MJ

    So, based on what you’re saying, St. Celestine V is a quitter too. Except, he’s a Saint. I’m not saying saints are infallible or impeccable, but I am saying that the Pope’s resignation is in no way an essentially “defeatist” act. Read Scott Hahn’s observation on the Pope’s behaviour regarding St. Celestine V and it might give you some perspective, particularly in calling this a “hurried” decision.

  • Adjoawukey eric

    hmmmmmmm, Lord have Mercy.

  • zhouff

    Hear, hear and hear some more!

  • zhouff

    … and hear some more!

  • Edward Burroughs
  • Nathaniel M. Campbell

    I think this in many ways reflects a return for Ratzinger to an earlier stage in his ecclesiology, for it fits perfectly with the reformed vision of the Church’s future that he sketched in his 1969 radio address, “What Will the Church Look Like in 2000?” (published in the book, The Faith and the Future). This post-conciliar vision of reform (which I analyzed last year in connection to his raising St. Hildegard of Bingen to the altar) saw times of both crisis and renewal ahead for the Church, which would issue in a smaller yet holier institution. It would be a Church that shed its arrogant and palmy claims to worldly greatness in the pursuit of a humility born of the meeting with Christ at its heart and soul.

    This final act of his papacy sets a seal on Benedict’s vision of it as ministry rather than monarchy: his goal is, I think, to rehabilitate for the Chair of St. Peter an ancient definition that placed itself in service to the Church rather than ruling over it.

  • Nathaniel M. Campbell

    1. You seem to have a confused understanding of what “infallibility” means.The Pope as a person will always be like any other human being — fallible, corruptible, and sinful. It is a *speficic* power of the *Office* that is infallible: that is, when the holder of the office of the Bishop of Rome speaks “ex cathedra”, that is, on behalf of the entire Church in its teaching authority as guaranteed by the Holy Spirit, he is speaking infallibly. But those circumstances are so narrowly circumscribed that most theologians understand the power to have been exercised only once or twice in the last 150 years.

    2. You also seem to make a fundamental confusion between man and office. A major point behind the idea of this resignation is to recognize the difference between the two. This final act of his papacy sets a seal on Benedict’s vision of it as ministry rather than monarchy: his goal is, I think, to rehabilitate for the Chair of St. Peter an ancient definition that placed itself in service to the Church rather than ruling over it.

  • ThePharmacistofLanceArmstrong

    I perfectly understand the significance of fallibility and infallibility in respect of the papacy. The issue is the confusion wrought by the present papacy or in the implementation of what you revealingly describe as its “vision” for the word itself suggests vagueness and by extension more confusion.

    I return to my original point that the Pope claims to express a personal opinion in his books but then publishes them under his papal name presumably to enhance the sales thereof. This is a questionable practice at the very least! I also repeat that the Church is in a state of crisis stemming from two problematic Vatican councils of the last one hundred and fifty years. Again I offer the Motu Proprio as an example of confusion to the point of a contradiction.

    My fervent wish is that the Cardinals leave the see of St. Peter vacant until our present Pope dies a natural death. We must then begin a reassessment of the role of the Pope and, if necessary, return to the practice of coronation to emphasize the uniqueness of the ministry if not for the Pope’s benefit at least for our own.

  • Jon Brownridge

     What you have said needs to be shouted out loud and clear to all who will listen. It is only relatively recently that we have begun to understand that sexual abuse can have long-term implications for some individuals. The Church’s emphasis was always on the sinner, the perpetrator, who was exhorted to repent and do penance, while the victim was urged to forgive and forget. Only in the 1980s did secular governments require that sexual abuse be reported to civil authorities. The Church has complied fully with this requirement since then. And as you say, sexual abuse is most prominent in families, then schools, then sports organizations. Infiltration by sexual predators into the priesthood is extremely small despite the media’s attempt to show otherwise.

  • Sweetjae

    I totally agree with you, but it’s not resignation rather renouncement.

  • Matt Ulrich

    What a blessing he has been to me with his stand for the truth, and the injustice he has helped
    overcome—Yes I will remain one of his peacemakers for the unborn, and always show the love
    of Christ to those contemplating abortion—thank you Benedict for your encouragement.
    Matt from Seattle, the Helper’s of God’s Precious Infants

  • Maccabeus

    In your humble opinion.

  • Maccabeus

    Respect has to be earned.

  • teigitur

    Of course.

  • teigitur

    The Holy Father has earned respect as a person, no question. Respect for his office should be a given for any Catholic.

  • Maccabeus

    The implications of Ratzinger’s resignation are negative for the papacy. Given the longer life expectancy of individuals in modern society it is now conceivable, if Ratzinger’s decision is modelled by future Popes, that the Church may find herself with 2 or 3 ex-Popes, still alive, though in retirement, while a 4th holds office. The effects of such a scenario will be disastrous for the symbolism and efficacy of the Papacy and hence for the Church as a whole. The more one reflects on Ratzinger’s decision, the worse it gets. 

  • Pastizzi56

     I agree fully.
    Physical discipline was deemed to be part of character formation. Most parents would always agree with teachers etc. and sometimes even complete disciplinary action at home

    Regarding sexual abuse, it was only relatively recently that we started to know more about peadophilia, and still there is a lot of confusion and ideas about its nature, consequences, and especially therapy if ever paedophile can be rehabilitated.

    I remember times when not only the church but also education departments, civil and religious associations and others used to think that the best remedy was to send the abuser somwhere else, as far as possible from the abuse. The thinking underpinning this was that the abuser must have had something akin to a crush on a particular boy or girl. Thus if they were separated the abuser would not do it again. Little they knew that paedophiles carry their problem with them and keep inflicting the unfortunate consequences in yhe lives of so many.

    This abuse is heinous and downright criminal but we shouldn’t be so easy to accuse of cover ups by those who weren’t to know better. By no means I’m denying that there were case of cover ups but case should be judged on their merits of demerits!!!!

  • DedeY

    All the while he was pope you did not think you needed to advise him . Now he has decided tto resign, with good reason, that’s when you suddenly realise you are the one who can rightly advise him.. Well done and well said O Wiser than Pope One!!!

  • Maccabeus

    I am merely reflecting on the implications of the Pope’s resignation for the good of the future Church and I have to say that I feel that the said implications, over the medium and long term, are likely to be negative. As for your comments about ‘advising the Pope’, I have no such pretensions, being only too aware of my own limitations, quite apart from the fact that I do not move in such exalted circles. 

  • Maccabeus

    Each decision of this kind must be considered on its merits and given the circumstances pertaining to the current situation I do not think Ratzinger’s decision has been a wise one for the Church. If I am wrong no one will be happier than myself.

  • Nat_ons

    Excellent witness; however, I am not entirely sure what a ‘mediaevalist’ is meant to be .. one must guess at someone who aims to be something between an ancient-ist and a modern-ist (as if any such distinction can have historical validity rather than political typology).

    For this post-conciliar vision of reform is, in truth, simply another of those world-stunning continuities of the pre-conciliar reality, under Pius XII and John XXIII – so beloved of Benedict XVI.

    The papal form of rule in the Church set out most clearly by the awesome Benedict XVI is seen in the Mystical Body of Christ:

    “There is a special reason too, and one most dear to Us, which recalls this doctrine to Our mind and with it a deep sense of joy. During the year that has passed since the twenty-fifth anniversary of Our Episcopal consecration, We have had the great consolation of witnessing something that has made the image of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ stand out most clearly before the whole world. Though a long and deadly war has pitilessly broken the bond of brotherly union between nations, We have seen Our children in Christ, in whatever part of the world they happened to be, one in will and affection, lift up their hearts to the common Father, who, carrying in his own heart the cares and anxieties of all, is guiding the barque of the Catholic Church in the teeth of a raging tempest. 

    This is a testimony to the wonderful union existing among Christians; but it also proves that, as Our paternal love embraces all peoples, whatever their nationality and race, so Catholics the world over, though their countries may have drawn the sword against each other, look to the Vicar of Jesus Christ as to the loving Father of them all, who, with absolute impartiality and incorruptible judgement, rising above the conflicting gales of human passions, takes upon himself with all his strength the defence of truth, justice and charity.” Venerable Pius XII, Mystici Corporis, 6.

    So (as you more than ably present of the “hermeneutic of continuity” in the article on Saint Hildegarde) the mystery espoused and still being lived to the full by Benedict XVI was taught by Pius XII who in turn draws on the concrete symbolism of Leo XIII et al; indeed both consider the witness of that great Lion of the passing ancient world of Roman empire bellowing a warning at the incipient modern world of nations – the middle ages sic which we all still inhabit – that is, Leo I:

    “Recognize, O Christian, your dignity, and being made a sharer of the divine nature go not back to your former worthlessness along the way of unseemly conduct. Keep in mind of what Head and of what Body you are a member.” Leo the Great,  Serm., XXI, 3.

  • Nathaniel M. Campbell

    A “medievalist” (the American spelling) is a person who studies the Middle Ages, broadly defined from Late Antiquity through to the Renaissance and Reformation, usually from multiple perspectives (historical, literary, artistic, theological, political — in a word, cultural). It is an accepted and widely-used term in academia. To think that that millennium of western history is merely a “political typology” is to be blind to its unique strengths and weaknesses as a formative period.

    And now that I’ve finished defending my professional turf with suitable pride, I readily thank you for your excellent contributions to a discussion about the continuities of an ecclesiology that, to be valid, must be rooted by grace in the Incarnate Christ.

  • Sweetjae

    I respect you as human being and the decision you make, can you reciprocate that to your fellow catholic named Josef?

  • guest

    I am not a betting man. I went thorugh the list of cardinal electors. I have a list of about 20 names. I narrowed it down In my judgement these are the cardinal names to watch for in the conclave:-
    Ouellet, Turkson, Tauran, Ravasi, Filoni, Kasper, Barbarin, Sarah, Amato and Monterisi

  • Lil_mini_mozart

    I totally agree – thank you for giving a different opinion.