Pope Benedict XVI Announces His Resignation
On the 11th of February the Catholic church was taken aback by the news that the reigning Pope, Benedict XVI, had decided to retire, becoming the first leader of the Vatican to do so for 700 years.
Benedict XVI, now 85 years old, explained that he had reached his decision to leave the highest office of the Catholic Church in light of the fact that his health had been steadily deteriorating.
The German born Pontiff stated in his farewell address during a routine meeting of Vatican cardinals that he had reached a stage that he felt that “his strength of mind and body was no longer adequate to continue in office due to his advanced age.”
While Pope Benedict XVI had been showing signs of ill health for some time causing concern to the Vatican, until his surprise announcement they apparently had given no indication to his advisers and aides that he was considering relinquishing the post.
The timing of the decision, however, shows that Benedict XVI had taken into account that it will allow the Vatican Council sufficient time in order to hold a conclave before Easter to elect a new pope, with the time set aside for mourning following the passing of the Pope not requiring to be observed.
Pope Benedict XVI was already 78 years old when he was elected in 2005, following in the considerable footsteps of Pope John Paul II, who took up the post at the age of 58 in 1970 and went on to become the longest serving Pope in modern history, as well as being the first non-Italian pope for close to 600 years.
Pope John Paul II remained as head of the Vatican for close to 27 years, before passing away at the age of 84 after suffering during the latter stages of his life from the effects of Parkinsons Disease, without any outwards signs that he was in any way interested in giving up his role.
Pope Benedict XVI officially stood down from his position on February 28th; with the 115 members of the Council of Cardinals in Rome already well into the process of choosing his successor.
Eventually on March 13th, 2013, his successor was chosen, and the new Pope was Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, who will become the first pontiff not born in Europe for nearly 1,300 years.
To be known as Pope Francis, the newly ordained Pope made his traditional appearance on the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica just over an hour after the signal of white smoke began to billow from the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel.
This was the sign that a new Pope had chosen, to take on the considerable task of leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics during a time of change and inner contemplation for the Catholic Church.