Thursday,20 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1135, 14 - 20 February
Thursday,20 September, 2018
Issue 1135, 14 - 20 February

Ahram Weekly

Vacancy at the Vatican

Pope Benedict XVI announces his intention to leave the Vatican, Michael Adel reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

“I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonisations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. 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.”

So read the statement making Pope Benedict XVI the sixth pope to forego leadership of the Catholic Church.

It continued: “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. 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 recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.

“For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, 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.

“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. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.”

Monsignor Krikor Augostinos Coussan, Primate of the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate, called Rome as soon as he heard of the pope’s resignation.

“His Holiness Pope Benedict met on Monday morning with Vatican cardinals and announced during the meeting his desire to resign from the Holy See,” stated Coussan. “He told them that after praying and searching his conscience he believes the Church needs more activism, and because of his advanced age, at 85, and for health reasons, he is unable to carry out the duties of the Holy See. He decided to officially submit his resignation on 28 February. His Holiness sincerely thanked the gathered cardinals, asserting he will not leave the Church until he is reassured about its future and the next pope is chosen to continue the holy journey.”

Bishop Coussan denied rumours on news websites that the reason behind the resignation is last year’s theft of documents by the pope’s butler.

The Catholic Church says Pope Benedict XVI is the sixth pope to abdicate his powers. He follows Pope Clement I, who left office in 97 AD; Pope Pontian who abandoned the Vatican in 230 AD after a dispute with the Roman emperor who exiled him to Sardinia; Pope Benedict IX who stepped down in 1045, and Celestine V and Gregory XII who abdicated the papacy in 1294 and 1415 respectively.

On Sunday, before he announced his resignation, Pope Benedict XVI tweeted: “We must trust in God’s mercy; we are all fallible but the grace of God transforms and rejuvenates us.”

Father Rafik Greish, spokesman for the Catholic Church in Egypt, told Al-Ahram Weekly: “Pope Benedict XVI has personally announced his intention to resign at 8pm on 28 February after serving as pope for nearly eight years.” He added that it is the first papal resignation in modern times.

He explained the process of choosing the next pope will begin when 120 cardinals meet to select the head of the Liturgy Commission in the presence of the cardinal in charge of the Vatican. All cardinals under the age of 80 have the right to nominate themselves and vote, and the successful candidate will require a simple majority of cardinals’ votes. The process could take up to a month.

Pope Benedict XVI’s last public appearance before the announcement of his resignation was celebrating the World Day of the Sick.

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