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
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