About the one who is going to be hidden to the world, according to his own words.
After having repeatedly examined his conscience before God, Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger at the age of 85 has come to the certainty that his strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to what he calls an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.
|Pope Benedictus XVI at a private audience (january,20 - 2006) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
"I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiriual nature, must be carried out not only by words and deeds but no less with prayer and suffering. "
Because the Pope has not died there is no need for the traditional nine days of mourning, but there will be a Conclave (a meeting of Cardinals to select the new Pope).
A spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel said the German-born Pope deserved "respect" and "gratitude" for his nearly eight years as pontiff after he announced he was to step down.
"The federal government has the greatest possible respect for the Holy Father, for his accomplishments, for his life-long work for the Catholic Church," said Steffen Seibert, adding he deserved also "gratitude."
The soft-spoken German, who always maintained that he never wanted to be pope, was an uncompromising conservative on social and theological issues, fighting what he regarded as the increasing secularization of society.
It remains to be seen whether his successor will continue such battles or do more to bend with the times.
Despite his firm opposition to tolerance of homosexual acts, his eight year reign saw gay marriage accepted in many countries. He has staunchly resisted allowing women to be ordained as priests, and opposed embryonic stem cell research, although he retreated slightly from the position that condoms could never be used to fight AIDS.
He repeatedly apologized for the Church's failure to root out child abuse by priests, but critics said he did too little and the efforts failed to stop a rapid decline in Church attendance in the West, especially in his native Europe.
Victims of the child sex abuse crisis that has engulfed the Catholic church during Pope Benedict's tenure welcomed his unexpected resignation on Monday, amid speculation over what prompted his departure.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (Snap), an organisation of 12,000 members worldwide, claim Benedict is personally responsible for widespread abuse within the church because he chose to protect its reputation over the safety of children. US lawyers who are currently suing the pontiff and other high-ranking Holy See officials for systematically concealing sexual crimes around the world, said his resignation may lead to more international prosecutions.
David Clohessy, executive director of Snap, condemned the pope's "terrible record" on child sex abuse and said he hoped he would "finally show some courageous leadership on the abuse crisis" in his remaining days.
Clohessy told the Guardian: "Before he became pope his predecessor put him in charge of the abuse crisis. He has read thousands of pages of reports of the abuse cases from across the world. He knows more about clergy sex crimes and cover-ups than anyone else in the church yet he has done precious little to protect children."
He said a big question for the pope's successor is "what he will do in a very tangible way to safeguard children, deter cover-ups, punish enablers and chart a new course. What matters is not whether a statement is unprecedented but whether an action is affected."
In addition to child sexual abuse crises, Ratzinger his papacy saw the Church rocked by Muslim anger after he compared Islam to violence. Jews were upset over rehabilitation of a Holocaust denier. During a scandal over the Church's business dealings, his butler was accused of leaking his private papers.
In an announcement read to cardinals in Latin, the universal language of the Church, the 85-year-old said: "Well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of St Peter ...
"As from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours (1900 GMT) the See of Rome, the See of St. Peter will be vacant and a conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is."
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said Benedict did not intend to influence the decision of the cardinals in a secret conclave to elect a successor.
A new leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics could be elected as soon as Palm Sunday, on March 24, and be ready to take over by Easter a week later, Lombardi said.
Several popes in the past, including Benedict's predecessor John Paul, have refrained from stepping down over their health, because of the division that could be caused by having an "ex-pope" and a reigning pope alive at the same time.
Lombardi said the pope did not fear a possible "schism", with Catholics owing allegiances to a past and present pope in case of differences on Church teachings.
He indicated the complex machinery of the process to elect a new pope would move quickly because the Vatican would not have to wait until after the elaborate funeral services for a pope.
It is not clear if Benedict will have a public life after he resigns. Lombardi said Benedict would first go to the papal summer residence south of Rome and then move into a cloistered convent inside the Vatican walls.
The resignation means that cardinals from around the world will begin arriving in Rome in March and after preliminary meetings, lock themselves in a secret conclave and elect the new pope from among themselves in votes in the Sistine Chapel.
There has been growing pressure on the Church for it to choose a pope from the developing world to better reflect where most Catholics live and where the Church is growing.
|Mar Mathew Arackal, Bishop of Kanjirapally,with the Pope (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
"It could be time for a black pope, or a yellow one, or a red one, or a Latin American," said Guatemala's Archbishop Oscar Julio Vian Morales.
The cardinals may also want a younger man. John Paul was 58 when he was elected in 1978. Benedict was 20 years older.
"We have had two intellectuals in a row, two academics, perhaps it is time for a diplomat," said Father Tom Reese, senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. "Rather than electing the smartest man in the room, they should elect the man who will listen to all the other smart people in the Church."
Liberals have already begun calling for a pope that would be more open to reform.
"The current system remains an 'old boy's club' and does not allow for women's voices to participate in the decision of the next leader of our Church," said the Women's Ordination Conference, a group that wants women to be able to be priests.
Pope's sudden resignation sends shockwaves through Church
Pope Benedict resigns: sex abuse survivors hope move eases prosecutionMcMurry said he personally holds Benedict responsible for "decades" of cover-up of the sex abuse scandal, during which time bishops were instructed to send paedophile priests from one district to another.
"It is a good day when a bad pope or a bad leader of your religion steps aside," he said.
McMurry said he believed Benedict was appointed to the papacy in part because he had kept the sex abuse scandal at bay to protect the reputation of the church.
"We have seen documentations. We know that this is the role that Benedict played, and he did a terrific job of containing a scandal until it could be contained no more and it exploded."
"It is hard for me to accept that Benedict would step down. Unless there was a potential scandal that we will never know about that was bargained away. There's a lot of skull-duggery here. It just doesn't add up" he said.
The Center for Constitutional Rights, which filed a case against the pope last year at the International Criminal Court on behalf of Snap, said his departure would make international prosecution easier, both in its case at the ICC and other, potential prosecutions, because it will remove the immunity given to him as a head of state.
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