Benedict First Pope in 600 Years to Resign; Francis Cardinal George Reacts
The last pope to step down was Gregory XII in 1415, who did so to end a civil war within the church.
Some Catholics reacted with shock Monday as Pope Benedict XVI announced his plans to resign on Feb. 28, 2013.
The resignation comes during Lent, a time of penance and the liturgical season leading up to Christianity’s most important holiday, Easter.
With his announcement, Benedict becomes the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years.
On Monday, Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago, posted the following statement on The Archdiocese of Chicago website:
Pope Benedict XVI has, in all circumstances, placed the will of God for the good of the Church before every other consideration. That same resoluteness of purpose speaks in his statement announcing his resignation from the Chair of Peter.
He has taught with clarity and charity what God has revealed to the world in Christ; he has handed on the apostolic faith; he has loved all of God’s people with all his heart. He has now shown great courage in deciding, after prayer and soul-searching, to resign his office at the end of this month.
With the gratitude of sons and daughters in our hearts, we ask the Lord to bless him and give him strength, as we begin to pray now for the one who will succeed him as Bishop of Rome, Successor of Peter and Vicar of Christ.
The Archdiocese of Chicago serves more than 2.3 million Catholics in Cook and Lake counties, a geographic area of 1,411 square miles.
According to CNN, a Vatican spokesman said a new pope will be chosen by the College of Cardinals before Easter, which falls on Sunday, March 31, this year.
“Because the Church was founded by Christ and lives by the Holy Spirit, we have no reason to worry about the future,” Conlon said. “The College of Cardinals will be convened a few days after February 28 and elect a new Bishop of Rome in accord with exiting norms. Our task, as members of the Body of Christ, is to seek the guidance and strength of the Holy Spirit for the cardinals and to pray for a peaceful future for Pope Benedict.”
Pope cites ‘advanced age’
Benedict, born Joseph Ratzinger in Bavaria, was chosen at the papal conclave in 2005 to succeed Pope John Paul II.
In a statement released Monday morning, the 85-year-old pontiff cited his age and physical condition as the reasons for his resignation, saying, in part:
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 Petrineministry. 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 barque 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.
Benedict’s predecessor, Pope John Paul II, also suffered from illness during his papacy, in addition to surviving two assassination attempts. In 2003, the Vatican announced that John Paul II had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, an illness that caused him to have difficulty speaking and hearing, along with severe osteoarthritis.
Despite his illnesses, he continued to travel and to carry out his papal duties. He died in 2005 at age 84.
First pope to resign in six centuries
Benedict becomes the first pope to resign since 1415, when Pope Gregory XII stepped aside to quell a civil war of sorts within the Catholic Church during a time when two men claimed to be pope.
Gregory XII agreed to resign provided that his rival, Antipope Benedict XIII, did the same, in order to pave the way for a new papal conclave and the election of a new pope.
Editor's note: Plainfield Patch Editor Shannon Antinori contributed to this story.
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