Monday, February 11, 2013

This is big. REALLY big.

The Vatican Radio website has the full text of the pope's statement today. Here it is in full:
Dear Brothers,

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonisations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. 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 only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, 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 bark 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 fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.

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, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is. 
Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

From the Vatican, 10 February 2013
RK here. This is monumental news.  While nothing is done for the first time in the Vatican, this is something that really has never happened before. Normally through history when a Pope resigns, it is at the tip of a halberd or something. The last Pope to resign was in 1415, and that was to end the three-pope Great Schism.

The Papacy is what it is.... an institution deliberately left to be occupied by very old men. They have LOTS of experience in having popes who didn't have the lights on. Leo XIII was totally demented his last decade or so in office, for instance. When this happens day to day policy devolves to the top aides, but no major changes or initiatives are made. This is because the institution of the Papacy is about conserving unchanged the deposit of the faith--i.e., DISCOURAGING CHANGE. One wonders why Benedict didn't think this was appropriate in his case. Is there something rumbling in the Vatican we don't know about?

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Keep it clean for gene.