Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation of the See of Rome today during a consistory during which three canonizations were also announced.
In his statement to the cardinals present at the consistory, the Holy Father 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. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not onlywith words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering,” Pope Benedict XVI told the cardinals at the consistory.
He continued: “However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in orderto govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body arenecessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I havehad to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”
Recognizing the seriousness of his ministry, Pope Benedict announced that on February 28th, at 8:00pm, the See of Saint Peter will be vacant. A Conclave to elect a new Supreme Pontiff will then be convoked.
Pope Benedict XVI concluded his statement by thanking the Cardinals for “all the love and work” with which they have supported him during his ministry, and “asking pardon for all my defects.”
Pope Benedict concluded: “And now, let us entrust theHoly Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holyMother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electinga new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Churchof God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.”
A conscious, personal decision
Addressing journalists at the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Lombardi stated that for several months the Holy Father has contemplated this decision. When asked by one journalist if the Pope was saddened by his impending retirement, Fr. Lombardi stated that the Holy Father has experienced a “spiritual serenity in front of this retirement.”
Fr. Lombardi also confirmed that there is no particular ailment affecting Pope Benedict XVI. “There is no specific sickness or ailment that is affecting the Holy Father at this time,” Fr. Lombardi said.
“He has recognized in the last few months with lucidity that his strength was weakening.”
The decision to resign from the See of Rome”was a personal decision,” Fr. Lombardi continued. “I don’t believe that anyone has suggested this to him. This was a conscious decision that he made.”
The new Supreme Pontiff is expected to be elected in time for Easter. As for Pope Benedict XVI, Fr. Lombardi stated that after he vacates the See of Rome, he will retire to a cloistered monastery within the Vatican.