WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

Pope Benedict XVI to resign, the first Papal resignation in centuries

Bombshell news from the Vatican:

Pope Benedict XVI will resign at the end of the month.

The Pope cites his advanced age and resulting lack of strength; he had recently begun using a cane.

Georg Ratzinger - the pope's brother - said the Pope's personal physician had advised him not to go on any more trans-Atlantic trips, and had been considering stepping down for months, according to the Associated Press. George Ratziner told Deusche Presse-Agentur his brother was having increasing difficulty walking, and his resignation was part of a "natural process."

Benedict was the 265th pope and the 6th German pope (the last German to occupy the Chair of Peter came in the 11th century.)

Interesting: Some had thought Pope John Paul II should set an example for the modern Papacy and resign, but he never did. (Although, twice, JP II secretly drafted letters offering the College of Cardinals his resignation in the event of some incurable condition which would prevent him from fulfilling the ministry of the Bishop of Rome. So says the postulator for the late pope's cause, Monsignor Slawomir Oder. JP II also reportedly pondered whether it might make sense for a pope to step down at the age of 75, the age when bishops ordinarily retire.)

Pope Paul VI - like most modern popes - regarded resignation as simply unfathomable. Paul VI also worried about setting a precedent that might encourage factions within the Church to pressure future popes to step down, unrelated to health. So has Benedict XVI now set a modern precedent?

Ponder this scenario: For the first time in centuries, a former pope will be able to look on (from this world) at a new pope. Unclear if the former Pope Benedict would go into seclusion or still appear in public from time to time; first reports say he'd stay at The Vatican.

Accounts vary, but it seems the last Pope to have resigned was either Pope Gregory XII (in 1415) or Pope Celestine V (in 1294). Gregory XII gave up the Papacy to end a civil war within the Church, which had produced rival claimants to the Papacy. Dante placed Celestine V in hell because of Celestine's resignation.

You can hear my interview with Bishop Francis Malooly - spiritual leader of the Diocese of Wilmington - about Pope Benedict's resignation announcement...

Audio Here

Here's an account of Benedict's reasons from the Vatican Radio website:


Pope Benedict had been scheduled to visit Brazil, nominally the largest Catholic country in the world, in July for a youth festival. But some Vatican observers wondered if this pope would be strong enough to make that journey and appear in the heat before crowds.

A possible successor? It's often foolhardy to try to guess. British bookmakers have already pronounced their favorite: Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice & Peace.

Some top names: Cardinal Angelo Scola, Archibishop of Milan; Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, Archbishop of Vienna; Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Canadian head of the Vatican's Office of Bishops. Or, the cardinal electors at the next conclave might look at Latin Americans. Longshot: Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York.

Here's one of the better analytical accounts I've read about Pope Benedict's legacy...


Some excellent background on Papal transitions from Father Thomas Reese, writing for the Jesuit magazine, AMERICA---


Posted at 6:34am on February 11, 2013 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Mon, Feb 11, 2013 9:05am
This is good. He has been a good pope. But, I'm glad he listened to God when he was told to hang it up. Personally, he had just recently gone on twitter. I wondered if he heard the unfiltered public thinking across the airwaves and realized an old person, despite one's age and wisdoom, was nothing but a token of days gone by. Now Timothy Dolan could very well be the first Western Hemispheric pope.

Mon, Feb 11, 2013 9:07am
Interesting. Women in the Catholic Church are forced to carry babies to term, even if it means sacrificing their own lives... no matter how bad their health gets, they must carry on the duty they have taken by becoming pregnant. But the male leader of the church has no such rule when his health is at risk due to the duties of his job.

I'm Catholic and anti-abortion for the most part... but something smells typically Catholic gender double-standard here to me.

Mon, Feb 11, 2013 11:16am
The news of the Pope’s retirement certainly surprised me. He has been noticeably weaker this past year, but I did not foresee such a dramatic step. It does raise the question of what future popes may do.
Having a document in place allowing a council or legislative body to step in when a head of state is permanently incapacitated is not unusual. The fact that Pope John Paul II took this action is understandable. Queen Elizabeth II has also done this, allowing her removal in the event of a stroke or dementia. As we continue to keep people alive for longer periods of time, such documents are vital.

Mon, Feb 11, 2013 1:03pm
When Ratzinger was first selected as Pope, there was a bit of a controversy over the fact that he had been in the Hitler Youth Corps as a teen. Many people didn't understand that if you were a young man in Germany in that time era, you didn't really have a choice to join the Nazis. It would be a shame if Ratzinger's legacy is somehow tainted by historians on this.

Mon, Feb 11, 2013 3:28pm
In his favor: He came out and said priests that abused children need to be punished. At that time, the Americans were still shuffling priests around to get out from under the legal judgments. One would have expected the Pope to go along with minimizing the damage. He didn't. He said it was wrong, he apologized to the victims, and demanded that Bishops comply with legal authorities...

That set him apart from every other pope up until now who sort of held that the Church was above all law.

Mon, Feb 11, 2013 4:13pm

And now we see that the Quota/affirmative action crowd is applying quotas to the Pope's office. The rationale is that a growing part of the Catholic world is from Latin America, Africa or Asia, therefore the next leader must be of the same skin color. They're going into the Pope selection with a certain skin color in mind.

Why not select the next Pope based on the content of his character rather than the color of his skin?

Tue, Feb 12, 2013 1:08am
It will; it gets voted on by 120 some Cardinals who will simply vote on who they think God wants them to put in...

All the hoopla and speculation and calls of affirmative action on the outside, stay on the outside.

Tue, Feb 12, 2013 9:21am
With all of discussion about the Pope's resignation being the first in 600 years, the one I haven't seen is the demands that modern life makes on the aging Pontiffs. Until recent years, the Pope pretty much stayed in Italy and led the Church from there. Today, he is expected to travel worldwide, follow exhausting agendas, and say Mass before millions of people. All of this would be tiring for anyone, let alone an 85 year old man. I wish him well.

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