‘For the good of the Church’
Holy Father’s selfless resignation reason; Cardinal O’Brien pays tribute ahead of conclave
THERE has been great sadness and surprise at Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement that he will resign as leader of the Holy Catholic Church ‘for the good of the Church’ at the end of this month. Cardinal Keith O’Brien is now preparing to be the only UK member of the conclave to elect the next Pope before Easter.
The Holy Father, 85, said on Monday that he had made the decision to resign, unprecedented in almost 600 years, because he had become too old and frail to continue as Pope, and he highlighted his motives at Wednesday’s general audience.
He told a meeting of cardinals in the Vatican on Monday that ‘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,” the Pope said. “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 recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”
The Pope said after nearly eight years in charge of the See of Peter he entrusted ‘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.’
Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said on Monday that a new Pope would be elected before the end of March, before Easter, and that the Pope was not stepping down because of any specific illness.
Fr Lombardi admitted that even the Pope’s closest aides did not know what he was planning to do and were left ‘incredulous’ by the news. He added that the decision showed ‘great courage’ and ‘determination’ and that the Pope would formally leave office at 7pm GMT on February 28.
Fr Lombardi also revealed that, after the pope steps down, he will move to the Papal villa in Castel Gandolfo outside of Rome. He will stay there until the renovation is completed of a cloister, set up by Blessed John Paul II, which is located inside the Vatican Gardens, he said. The pope will then live in the cloister, called the Mater Ecclesia monastery, and dedicate his time to prayer and reflection, Fr Lombardi said.
Tributes to Pope Benedict have been flooding in from around the world. In the UK, they were lead by the country’s most senior Catholic clergyman, Cardinal Keith O’Brien of St Andrew’s and Edinburgh.
“Like many people throughout the world, I was shocked and saddened to hear of the decision by Pope Benedict XVI to resign,” the cardinal said. “I know that his decision will have been considered most carefully and that it has come after much prayer and reflection.”
The cardinal went on to call on the Catholic community of Scotland to join him in praying for Pope Benedict (above) ‘at this time of deterioration in his health as he recognises his incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to him’.
“I hope I will also be able to rely on the prayers of Catholics across the world for the Cardinal Electors as we prepare to travel to Rome,” he said. “In order to participate in the conclave, which will be convoked to elect a successor as Bishop of Rome and Supreme Pontiff.”
The cardinal will be the only member of the College of Cardinals, who elect the Pope, represent the United Kingdom.
—PIC: JOE LYNCH