In an almost unprecedented move, Pope Benedict XVI has resigned. Word of this emerged online hours ago, with confirmation coming now straight from the Vatican Radio, which has the Pope’s letter.
In it, the Pontiff explains that age and health prevent him from doing his work, especially in a context in which change dictates the pace of the work to be done.
His decision will become effective come February 28, when he will step down and let the competent body decide who should tread in his footsteps.
“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,” the Pope says.
“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,” he goes on to say.
His health has become an impediment, he explains.
“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 govern the bark 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 recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me,” the Pontiff further notes.
Pope Benedict’s papacy began in 2005. He is the second Pope to resign; as noted above, the decision is almost an unprecedented one. The last Pope to do the same was Pope Gregory XII in 1415.
“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,” the Pope also says in the letter.
He concludes it by underlining that his life will continue to be one dedicated to God, the Church and prayer.