Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, announced to the world the news of Benedict XVI’s resignation.
“Among the reasons for the Pope’s resignation, as he noted in his own words,” Fr. Lombardi said, “are the circumstances of today’s world that, in relation to the past, are particularly difficult, both because of the speed as well as the number of events and problems that arise that, therefore, need a vigour, perhaps stronger than in the past. It is a vigour that the Pope says he has felt diminish in him in recent months.”
He continued, “The phrase: ‘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,’ is very significant This is the formal declaration, which is important from a juridical point of view. In paragrapgh 2 of canon 332 of the Code of Canon Law, we read: ‘Should it happen that the Roman Pontiff resigns from his office, it is required for validity that the resignation be freely made and properly manifested, but it is not necessary that it be accepted by anyone.’ The two fundamental points are, therefore, freedom and due manifestation. Freedom and public manifestation, and the consistory in which the Pope manifested his will is public.”
“Benedict XVI will continue to fully carry out his functions and his service until 28 February at 8:00 pm [Rome time]. From that moment on the situation of Sede Vacante will begin, regulated, from a legal and canonical standpoint, by the texts referring to Sede Vacante in the Code of Canon Law and the Apostolic Constitution ‘Universi dominici gregis’ by John Paul II, regarding the Sede Vacante of the Apostolic See.”
“The Pope’s announcement is consistent with what he declared in the book ‘Light of the World’ by Peter Seewald, based on interviews with Benedict XVI. Seewald posed two precise questions on the hypothesis of resignation. In the first, he asked the Holy Father whether, in difficult situations that weigh on the pontificate in progress, the Pope would consider resigning. Benedict’s response was: ‘When the danger is great, one cannot escape. For this reason, surely, this would not be the time to resign’ (he was referring to the question of sexual abuse, etc.). Moments like this are the times when one has to be strong and face the difficult situation. This is what I think. One can resign in a time of peace, or when one simply no longer has the strength, but one cannot escape in a moment of danger saying ‘someone else take care of it’. In any case, the Pope said that the difficulties would not be, for him, a motive for resignation; rather, they would be a reason not to. Seewald’s second question was: ‘Well then, can you imagine a situation in which you would think that a Pope could resign?’ The Holy Father responded: ‘When a Pope realizes clearly that he is no longer physically, mentally, and spiritually capable of carrying out his role, then there is legally the possibility, and also the obligation, to resign.'”
The director of the Vatican press office explained that the Holy Father “will move to Castel Gandolfo on 28 February, and, once he has finished the tasks he has in progress, he will take up residence in the former cloistered monastery in the Vatican. The process for the election of a new Pope will begin on 1 March. We do not yet know the exact date of the conclave, but obviously there will be no need to wait the normal eight days of mourning (novendali) after the death of the Pope. Thus, in two weeks, during the month of March, in time for Easter, we will have a new Pope … Benedict XVI will have no role in next March’s conclave, nor in the running of the Church during the time between popes, the time of Sede Vacante. The Apostolic Constitution gives no role in this transition to a pope who resigns.”
“Personally,” he concluded, “I received the announcement of the Pope’s resignation with great admiration, for its great valour, for the Holy Father’s freedom of spirit and great concern for the responsibility of his ministry. Benedict XVI has offered us a great witness of spiritual freedom, of great wisdom in regard to Church government in today’s world.”