Pope Benedict XVI to Resign, Citing Age And Waning Energy

By Debbi Wilgoren
     Feb. 11 (Washington Post) -- Pope Benedict XVI said Monday
that he will resign at the end of February because he no longer
has the strength to fulfill the duties of his office, news
services reported.
     Benedict, 85, is the first pope to resign in nearly 600
years. His decision means that for the first time in centuries,
there will be a living former pope looking on as his successor
leads the Catholic 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," Benedict said in a statement issued by the
Vatican at midday in Rome (6 a.m. Washington time).
     In order to lead the world's 1 billion-plus Catholics,
Benedict said, "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 recognize my incapacity to
adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me."
     "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," said Benedict, who has been pope for
eight years.
     In accordance with church tradition, a conclave of cardinals
will be convened to select the next pope. The Associated Press
reported that the conclave will likely take place in mid-March.
     Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, a soft-spoken, conservative
theologian born in Bavaria, was elected pope in 2005.
     In December, he surprised some church-watchers by launching
the first ever papal Twitter account, a modern day twist on a
church that prides itself on adherence to the ancient tenets of
its faith.
     In a visit to Washington three years after becoming pope,
Benedict was welcomed at the White House by President Bush and
cheered by thousands of flag-waving spectators as he visited the
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in
Northeast Washington.
     He officiated at a Mass for tens of thousands of Catholic
faithful at Nats Park, and addressed Catholic college presidents
at Catholic University.
     During his visit to Washington, Benedict addressed the
sexual abuse of minors scandal that has rocked the U.S. Catholic
church in recent decades. He said the abuse of minors by members
of the clergy was "evil" and "immoral" but had to be eradicated
in a broader attack on the degradation of modern-day sexuality.
     Most modern popes have felt that resignation is unacceptable
except in cases of an incurable or debilitating disease — that
paternity, in the words of Paul IV, cannot be resigned, said
Thomas J. Reese, a senior fellow at Woodstock Theological Center.
     In addition, church leaders feared that the option of papal
resignation could open the door for competing factions within the
church to pressure popes to resign prematurely.
     Still, the code of canon law does allow for the resignation
of a pope.
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