Pope Emeritus responds to letter from Italian journalist

Benedict XVI has told of the “absurd” conspiracy theories surrounding his resignation, a year after he left office. The Pope Emeritus responded to a letter from Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli, who had asked about the alleged pressures and conspiracies some believe to be behind the resignation.

Benedict wrote that “there is absolutely no doubt regarding the validity of my resignation from the Petrine ministry” and the “speculations” were “simply absurd”. He also said there was no dual government in the Church, and that his “only purpose” is to pray for his successor.

The former pope left office a year ago today, having abdicated two weeks earlier, the first pontiff to do so in 600 years. Writing from the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in the Vatican, he told the Vatican correspondent for La Stampa that there were no secret reasons for his resignation, and that people should not read too much into his every decision.

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In his last General Audience, on February 27, 2013, Benedict had said his decision to withdraw from public life did not mean a return to public life: “My decision to resign the active exercise of the ministry does not revoke this… I am not abandoning the cross, but remaining in a new way at the side of the crucified Lord. I no longer bear the power of office for the governance of the Church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, in the enclosure of Saint Peter.”

These last words were interpreted by some as meaning that his decision to resign had not been taken freely, a question that Mr Tornielli had put to the Pope Emeritus in his letter of February 16.

But the response, just two days later, stated that: “There is absolutely no doubt regarding the validity of my resignation from the Petrine ministry. The only condition for the validity of my resignation is the complete freedom of my decision. Speculations regarding its validity are simply absurd.”

Benedict said that he continues to wear the papal white cassock for “purely practical reasons.” “At the moment of my resignation there were no other clothes available,” he wrote. He also said that he kept the name Benedict, rather than changing his name back to Joseph Ratzinger, because it was a simple option.

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