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Surprise as Pope Benedict XVI announces his resignation

11 February 2013


POPE Benedict XVI has announced unexpectedly that he plans to stand down at the end of the month, because of deteriorating strength brought on by his "advanced" age. He is 85.

The Pope was elected nearly eight years ago ( News, 22 April 2005), then aged 78. In a declaration issued by the Vatican on Monday morning, he said: "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."

He went on: "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 recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me".

The Pope said that he would "renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter . . . in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant, and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is".

Although Popes have resigned in the past, it is customary for them to continue in office until their death.

The Archbishop of Canterbury said in a statement: "As I prepare to take up office I speak not only for myself, and my predecessors as Archbishop, but for Anglicans around the world, in giving thanks to God for a 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. . .

"In his teaching and writing he has brought 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."

The Pope's declaration can be read in full here. Archbishop Welby's statement can be read in full here.

See Friday's Church Times for full coverage of the Pope's resignation.

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