TT Archbishop surpised
By Andre Bagoo Tuesday, February 12 2013
THE VATICAN yesterday announced that Pope Benedict XVI, who is 85, will resign at the end of this month, becoming the first pope to do so in almost 600 years. According to some historians, he will become one of only a handful of popes to freely resign.
In an immediate reaction, Archbishop Joseph Harris, head of the local Roman Catholic Church, expressed shock over the announcement of the resignation, which the Pope said was due to health concerns. “This is a big surprise for us,” Archbishop Harris told Newsday. “It is not normal for the present- day pope to resign. The last time this happened was centuries ago.”
In a statement issued by the Holy See, Pope Benedict said he was resigning due to what he termed his “incapacity” to continue in the post due to “advanced age” and the deterioration of his health.
“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,” the Pope said. “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.” He said his decision was made necessary due to the requirements of the modern-day world.
“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 recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me,” the Pope said. “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.” The announcement was placed on the Vatican website in English, French, German, Italian, Latin, Polish, Portuguese, and Spanish. As the nation began the two-day Carnival revelry, the local church was quietly coming to terms over the decision of the Pope (formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) to step down.
The last case of a pope resigning dates back centuries ago to Pope Gregory XII who reigned from 1406 to 1415. He stepped down in order to end what was called the Western Schism. That conflict involved three rival claimants to the papal throne.
Before Pope Gregory XII, in 1294, Pope Celestine V, famously resigned after only five months after his election. One of his first acts as pope was to issue a solemn decree declaring it permissible for a pope to resign and then did so. He lived for two further years as a hermit, and was later made a saint. The decree that he issued is widely regarded as ending any doubt among Canon lawyers about the validity of a papal resignation. But though there is evidence of other purported resignations (Pope Pontian (230-235); Pope Marcellinus (296-308); Pope Liberius (352-366); Pope John XVIII among others) Canon Law experts and historians have questioned the validity of these or whether they were truly voluntary resignations at all.
Today, a papal resignation is, in fact, envisaged as a possibility in Canon or Church Law. Canon 332 §2 of the Code of Canon Law makes clear that a resignation is valid if it is “made freely”.