It is rare in any lifetime to witness a pope being chosen from the college of cardinals but even rarer to see a pope leave before his time is up. In my young existence, I have witnessed both happen and will see another cardinal become a pope of one of the largest church organizations in the world, the Catholic Church. Say what you will, this will still go down in history and will be remember for a long time.
On Monday February 11, 2013, Pope Benedict XVI did the unthinkable and said he will resign on February 28, becoming the first pontiff in 600 years to take such a step. The leader of the 1.2 billions Catholics around the world, Pope Benedict in a statement read in Latin during a church council with cardinals said that he no longer had the strength to fulfill his duties which has shocked the world. As he says,”My strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.” Vatican officials explained that the statement had been translated into different languages before the Pope could make his announcement for immediate dissemination. The decision by the 85 year old German Pontiff who was elected to the papacy in April of 2005 has left many wondering what to do with two living Popes and has caused a paradox for the church as this has not happened in 600 years. A conclave of cardinals expected to be he;d in March will elect a new Pope. Arrangements are underway to provide Pope Benedict with a place of residence which may be a disused monastery on Vatican grounds.
Today on Ash Wednesday in Vatican City, the Pope celebrated his final mass as pontiff presiding over services hours after explaining his decision to the faithful. The mood in St. Peter’s Basilica was somber as the finality of weight of Benedict’s decision registered with thousands of the faithful present, but ended with a standing ovation as Pope Benedict exited for the last time as pope bring tears to eyes of those closest to the man. “We wouldn’t be sincere, Your Holiness, if we didn’t tell you that there’s a veil of sadness on our hearts this evening,” Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Benedict’s longtime deputy, told the pope at the end of the service, his voice breaking. The crowd yelled “Viva il papa!” as the Pope stepped off the altar. By March 31, the church will have a new pope elected as it marks the end of Lent and the celebration of Easter which commemorates the death and resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday.
Benedict explained to his flock why he broke with a 600 year tradition and decided to retire: “As you know, I have decided to renounce the ministry that the Lord gave to me on April 19, 2005…I did this in full liberty for the good of the church.” The Vatican has revealed his final days as pope saying he will attend a farewell ceremony with his cardinals then fly to the papal summer retreat at Castel Gandolfo. Under the timetable, Benedict will be far from the Vatican when he ceases to be pope at 8p.m. on February 28 a deadline he decided on. The College of Cardinals will then organize a conclave where the 117 or so cardinals under 80 will vote to see who will succeed Benedict. Benedict’s final appearance will be on February 27 and is expected to draw a crowd and will allow the faithful to say farewell under happier circumstances than his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, died in 2005.