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Pope to resign Feb. 28, says he's too infirm

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NICOLE WINFIELD
Associated Press

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Declaring that he lacks the strength to do his job, Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday he will resign Feb. 28 - becoming the first pontiff to step down in 600 years. His decision sets the stage for a mid-March conclave to elect a new leader for a Catholic Church in deep turmoil.

The 85-year-old pope dropped the bombshell in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals, surprising even his closest collaborators even though he had made clear previously that he would step down if he became too old or infirm to carry on.

Benedict called his choice "a decision of great importance for the life of the church."

Indeed, the move allows the Vatican to hold a conclave before Easter to elect a new pope, since the traditional nine days of mourning that would follow the death of a pope doesn't have to be observed.

It will also allow Benedict to hold great sway over the choice of his successor, though he will not vote. He has already hand-picked the bulk of the College of Cardinals - the princes of the church who will elect the next pope - to guarantee his conservative legacy and ensure an orthodox future for the church.

"Without doubt this is a historic moment," said Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, a protege and former theology student of Benedict's who himself is considered a papal contender. "Right now, 1.2 billion Catholics the world over are holding their breath."

Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, the archbishop of Paris, called the decision a "liberating act for the future," saying popes from now on will no longer feel compelled to stay on until their death.

"One could say that in a certain manner, Pope Benedict XVI broke a taboo," he told reporters in Paris.

There are several papal contenders in the wings, but no obvious front-runner - the same situation when Benedict was elected pontiff in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II.

The Vatican stressed that no specific medical condition prompted Benedict's decision, that he remained fully lucid and took his decision independently.

"Any interference or intervention is alien to his style," Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said.

It has been obvious to all that the pope has slowed down significantly in recent years, cutting back his foreign travel and limiting his audiences. He now goes to and from the altar in St. Peter's Basilica on a moving platform to spare him the long walk down the aisle. Occasionally he uses a cane.

His 89-year-old brother, Georg Ratzinger, said doctors had recently advised the pope not to take any more trans-Atlantic trips.

"His age is weighing on him," Ratzinger told the dpa news agency. "At this age, my brother wants more rest."

Benedict emphasized that carrying out the duties of being pope requires "both strength of mind and body."

"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 the demands of being the pope, he told the cardinals.

"In order to govern the bark (ship) of St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary - strengths which in the last few months, have deteriorated in me," he said.

Popes are allowed to resign but church law says the decision must be "freely made and properly manifested." Still, only a handful have done it.

The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415 in a deal to end the Great Western Schism, a dispute among competing papal claimants. The most famous resignation was Pope Celestine V in 1294; Dante placed him in hell for it.

There are good reasons why others haven't followed suit, primarily because of the fear of a schism with two living popes. Lombardi sought to rule out such a scenario, saying church law makes clear that a resigning pope no longer has the right to govern the church.

"Therefore there is no risk of a conflict," he told reporters.

When Benedict was elected in 2005 at age 78, he was the oldest pope chosen in nearly 300 years. At the time, he had already been planning to retire as the Vatican's chief orthodoxy watchdog to spend his final years writing in the "peace and quiet" of his native Bavaria.

On Monday, Benedict said he would serve the church for the remainder of his days "through a life dedicated to prayer." The Vatican said immediately after his resignation, which takes effect at 8 p.m. Feb. 28, Benedict would go to Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer retreat south of Rome, and then would live in a cloistered monastery.

During his tenure, Benedict charted a very conservative course for the church, trying to reawaken Christianity in Europe where it had fallen by the wayside and return the church to its traditional roots, which he felt had been betrayed by an incorrect interpretation of the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

His efforts though, were overshadowed by a worldwide clerical sex abuse scandal, communication gaffes that outraged Jews and Muslims alike and, more recently, a scandal over leaked documents by his own butler. Many of his stated priorities as pope also fell short: he failed to establish relations with China, heal the schism and reunite with the Orthodox Church, or reconcile with a group of breakaway, traditionalist Catholics.

Still, most Vatican watchers saw his decision as the best thing to do for the church given his diminished capacities.

"It is an act ultimately of responsibility and love for the church," said the Rev. John Wauck, an Opus Dei priest who teaches at the Pontifical Holy Cross University in Rome.

All cardinals under age 80 are allowed to vote in the conclave, the secret meeting held in the Sistine Chapel where cardinals cast ballots to elect a new pope. As per tradition, the ballots are burned after each voting round; black smoke that snakes out of the chimney means no pope has been chosen, while white smoke means a pope has been elected.

There are currently 118 cardinals under age 80 and thus eligible to vote, 67 of whom were appointed by Benedict. However, four of them will turn 80 before the end of March. Depending on the date of the conclave, they may or may not be allowed to vote.

Benedict in 2007 passed a decree requiring a two-thirds majority to elect a pope, changing the rules established by John Paul who had decided that the voting could shift to a simple majority after about 12 days of inconclusive voting. Benedict did so to prevent cardinals from merely holding out until the 12 days had passed to push through a candidate who only had only a slim majority.

Contenders to be his successor include Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, Schoenborn, the archbishop of Vienna, and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Canadian head of the Vatican's office for bishops.

Longshots include Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York. Although Dolan is popular and backs the pope's conservative line, being from a world power will probably not count in his favor. That might also rule out Cardinal Raymond Burke, an archconservative and the Vatican's top judge, even if he is known and respected by most Vatican cardinals. Burke used to be archbishop of St. Louis.

Antonio Marto, the bishop of Fatima in central Portugal, said Benedict XVI's resignation presents an opportunity to pick a church leader from a country outside Europe.

"In Africa or Latin America, there is a freshness, an enthusiasm about living the faith," Marto told reporters. "Perhaps we need a pope who can look beyond Europe and bring to the entire church a certain vitality that is seen on other continents."

Cardinal Antonio Tagle, the archbishop of Manila, has impressed many Vatican watchers, but at 56 and having only been named a cardinal last year, he is considered too young.

Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson of Ghana is one of the highest-ranking African cardinals at the Vatican, currently heading the Vatican's office for justice and peace, but he's something of a wild card.

There are several possibilities in Latin America, though the most well-known, Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, is considered far too liberal to be elected by such a conservative College of Cardinals.

Whoever it is, he will face a church in turmoil: The sex abuse scandal has driven away thousands of people, particularly in Europe, from the church. Rival churches, particularly evangelical Pentecostal groups in the developing world, pose new competition. And as the pope himself has long lamented, many people in an increasingly secular world simply feel they don't need to believe in God.

The timing of Benedict's announcement was significant: Lent begins this week on Ash Wednesday, the most solemn period on the church's calendar that culminates with Holy Week and Easter on March 31.

The timing means that there will be a very big spotlight cast on Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, the Italian head of the Vatican's culture office. Benedict selected him to preside over the Vatican's spiritual exercises during Lent.

By Easter Sunday, the Catholic Church will have a new leader, a potent symbol of rebirth in the church that echoes the resurrection of Christ in its celebration of Easter.

Benedict, then known as the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, worked closely with Pope John Paul II for nearly a quarter-century and saw how his predecessor suffered through the debilitating end of his papacy.

So Benedict himself in 2010 raised the possibility of resigning if he were simply too old or sick to continue.

"If a pope clearly realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right, and under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign," Benedict said.

But he stressed that resignation was not an option to escape a particular burden, such as the sex abuse scandal.

"When the danger is great one must not run away. For that reason, now is certainly not the time to resign. Precisely at a time like this one must stand fast and endure the situation," he said.

Monday was a holiday at the Vatican, although the pope was presiding over a ceremony to name new saints. The announcement in Latin took cardinals in the room by surprise; others inside the Vatican who were listening in to the closed-circuit recording struggled to understand the Latin.

"All the cardinals remained shocked and were looking at each other," said Monsignor Oscar Sanchez of Mexico who was in the room when Benedict made his announcement.

Benedict was born April 16, 1927 in Marktl Am Inn, in Bavaria, but his father, a policeman, moved frequently and the family left when he was 2.

In his memoirs, Benedict dealt what could have been a source of controversy had it been kept secret - that he was enlisted in the Nazi youth movement against his will when he was 14 in 1941, when membership was compulsory. He said he was soon let out because of his studies for the priesthood. Two years later he was drafted into a Nazi anti-aircraft unit as a helper. He deserted the German army in April 1945, the waning days of the war.

He called it prophetic that a German followed a Polish pope - with both men coming from such different sides of World War II.

Benedict was ordained, along with his brother, in 1951. After spending several years teaching theology in Germany, he was appointed bishop of Munich in 1977 and elevated to cardinal three months later by Pope Paul VI.

John Paul named him leader of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1981 and he took up his post a year later. Following John Paul's death in 2005, he was elected pope April 19 in one of the fastest conclaves in history, just about 24 hours after the voting began.
___

Daniela Petroff contributed from Vatican City, Thomas Adamson from Paris and Philipp-Moritz Jenne in Vienna contributed.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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This is serious business

This is serious business folks. Just take a listen:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqGXM23WUbs
Or is it "Pope Goes the Weasel"?

Will he.....

...get a Pension, or unemployment?

Ha Ha Ha

Ding Dong the Nazi's gone!!!!!

"Resigning". More like

"Resigning". More like "Getting the Hell out of Dodge", as they keep uncovering documents, showing he engineered a child-rape coverup.

Pope poop

I agree with the "Get out of Dodge" theory, since the Catholic Church admitted that Islam is now the fastest growing religion in the world, and in Europe, Islam has surpassed their numbers in growth, so beware, the dog that wants to go on a walk, it may own the neighborhood it walks!

Fundamentalism 101:KJV

Well said, Vog. Perhaps they

Well said, Vog. Perhaps they could elect one who would properly deal with Bernard Law, who is alive and well in the Vatican.

pope

Who will be the next child molester protector?

Hateful Remark

Your comment is stupid and vicious. Your hateful remark shows that anti-catholicism in the South is still alive and well.

If it's anti-Catholic ...

... to not respect an organized religion that has:

….. willfully covered up sex abuse scandals to the point where a catholic country like Ireland has severed its diplomatic link to the Vatican …..
….. had a history that goes back over a thousand years of torturing people that disagreed with them and has a documented history of funding and supporting inquisition trials such as the ones in Spain …..
….. murdered people just because they printed the Bible in the native language of specific populations …..
….. since 519 A.D taken a position on Papal Infallibility that directly contradicts the actions and lifestyles of so many corrupt and fallible Popes (if their lives were that fallible, there’s no reason to think their spiritual pronouncements were any better) that have peppered the church’s leadership for over a thousand years …..
….. refused to take a moral stance on the Nazi extermination of Jews until it was a safe thing to do … (Historians point out that any support the Pope did give the Jews came after 1942, once U.S. officials told him that the allies wanted total victory, and it became likely that they would get it. Furthering the notion that any intervention by Pius XII was based on practical advantage rather than moral inclination is the fact that in late 1942, Pius XII began to advise the German and Hungarian bishops that it would be to their ultimate political advantage to go on record as speaking out against the massacre of the Jews.) …..
….. historically acquired property and wealth at the expense of others (don’t take my word for it; just Google up the Church's assets) .....

then I guess I’m probably anti Roman Catholic Church as well. Not anti religion, just anti Roman Catholic Church. This is an organization, that despite its very obvious and historically documented flaws, has had the audacity to define who a saint is or isn't. That is obscene. I find it extremely offensive Guest88888 that you would categorize my attitude and the attitude of others who feel the same way as anti-catholicism in the South instead of as a problem with the Roman Catholic Church per se. That’s exactly what the Roman Catholic Church has been doing for years; trying to blame someone else for their sordid behaviours. It’s way beyond time for them to clean up their own house, starting with senior management.

Das' statement underscores

Das' statement underscores the lack of response the Catholic Church has given to the victims of clergy sexual assault. The Church SHOULD HAVE engaged in a process of truth and reconciliation by assisting in delivering the small handful of miscreants it protects to face justice, but instead it has chosen to continue its cover-up.

Bernard Law fled Boston hours before the arrival of Massachusetts state troopers were to serve him with subpoenas to testify before a grand jury.

Roger Mahony of California WILL participate in the election of the new Pope despite his being relieved of his duties relating to his participation is sexual abuse cover ups.

This Pope, himself, has made more than a few gaffes. One of his more egregious ones was where he called himself "a son of Germany", he prayed and asked why God was silent when 1.5 million victims, most of them Jews, died there during World War Two."

God wasn't silent, MEN, in particular the cowardly leadership of the Catholic Church were silent.

GuestTeeDuffer

You said:
"Bernard Law fled Boston hours before the arrival of Massachusetts state troopers were to serve him with subpoenas to testify before a grand jury."

I believe that is wrong. From Wiki:

"In December 2002, Law left Boston. It is often alleged [6] that he left just hours before state troopers arrived with subpoenas seeking his grand jury testimony; however, he had previously given evidence before two grand juries and been fully investigated by the state attorney general and the five district attorneys in the counties in which the archdiocese operates. When the state attorney general issued his report entitled Child Sexual Abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston (July 23, 2003) he severely criticized Law mentioning that "the Archdiocese has shown an institutional relectance to adequately addess the problem and, in fact, made choices that allowed the abuse to continue" but did not allege that Law had tried to evade investigation and he did state that Law had not broken any laws because the law requiring abuse to be reported was not expanded to include priests until 2002.[7]"

Law is one of the worst offenders no doubt - but to imply he left because he was about to be subpoena'd is wrong I believe

Vog

Vog, I posted my comment

Vog,

I posted my comment based on memory and didn't consult the wiki to which you refer. When I back checked to verify if my thoughts as to time and place were correct I found this article from ABC news (excerpt):

"Boston's embattled Roman Catholic Cardinal Bernard Law and several bishops who once worked for him have received subpoenas to appear before a grand jury.

A source familiar with the investigation says state police from the office of Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly delivered Law's subpoena to his Boston residence last Friday. Law left for Washington that day and later flew to Rome to confer with Vatican officials about the sex abuse crisis.

The grand jury is reportedly looking into possible criminal violations by church officials who supervised priests accused of child sexual abuse. In addition to Law, subpoenas reportedly have been issued for Bishop Thomas Daily of Brooklyn, N.Y.; Bishop John McCormack of Manchester, N.H.; Archbishop Alfred Hughes of New Orleans; Bishop Robert Banks of Green Bay, Wis.; and Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y.

The subpoenas came as Law was still meeting with church leaders today at the Vatican to discuss his possible resignation."

I should have been more precise in checking my statement. Best regards.

A nice athiest comment! Well done!

Perfect method of displaying yourself as lowly, trough groveling swine-hound! We all know you are an athiest, but is it really necessary to make such a nasty, disparaging comment to display your obvious hatred of "religion"? Do you feel better now? Are you more proud now?

Nobody doubts the church hasn't had it's problems, but there are few that I know that have the audacity to be as "in your face" disrespectful as your posting displays!

YOU Das, are ONE SICK WOMAN that is in bad need of help!!! Surely, you must have better self-control when not a faceless cyber poster, otherwise, you'll have nothing but enemies. Even the nastiest of people I know would have a knarly frown for you.

Guesttenheimer

Das (and others) are correct in that the Church's silence is just as bad as the pedophilia itself. We react with horror for any crime committed against a child but more so for sexual crimes because the child suffers for the rest of their lives. It's sad to say but murder is more merciful for a child because the suffering stops.
In this case it's worse because we entrusted our children - willingly - to these priests because THEY were supposed to be following Christ's teachings even more so than we expected our children to.
Now, that being said - it is NOT always the case that things are worse than they seem, but in this case the lack of openess leads one to conclude that indeed things were much worse, and the cover up more extensive, then we previously thought. We are in fact, waiting for the other shoe to drop - waiting for the next big document leak......
We do not know what, or if, these priests got treatment - but it does not matter. They, like the protestants preachers like Jim Baker et al, are zealots not following "the book".
As a Catholic I have to call it as I see it and pedophelia was way too wide spread and went on too long.

Vog

Hit a nerve?

Got your panties in a wad there? My comment was true. How do you think these perverts have been getting away with raping children for a thousand years. COVER UPS from top to bottom. Me being Atheist did not cause "christian" Priests to RAPE little children, that is all on them. Little children who are told to look up to and respect their Priests !! Disgusting vile church continued to let them do it. YOU are in denial of reality MAN.

I feel sorry for you and

I feel sorry for you and wonder what has happened in your life that has made you so angry and bitter. I will pray for you.

311

If you want to take time out of your busy day to talk to an imaginary figure in the sky then that is your prerogative. If it makes you feel better to think I am angry and bitter in my life go ahead, its just another lie for you to believe in.

I never denied anything at all.

I detest what happened to those kids and detest the church's method of handling it. I never said your being athiest had anything to do with those crimes. I'm only confirming that your gay lifestyle is abhorred by Christianity and that in turn incites you to angrily lash out against it as you have before. Any article on religion will find your multiple posts beating it down from every twisted angle you can invent.
Just because a few misguided priests took advantage of their position doesn't mean they are ALL like that. No more than Jeffery Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy are divinely representative of all homosexuals, right?

Take your meds heimer

Its cracking me up that you think I am gay. I am not, and most certainly never said I was. You have me confused with someone else. I support gay rights and I always have, if you think that makes me gay that's just another issue you need to deal with.

I am not the one flipping out over a one sentence comment, a comment that was factually true. Please tell me how the church didn't protect these pedo~priests for hundreds of years and I will digress.

Now you have brought up serial killers.... really?

This is a comment board, if you don't like my comments don't read them. They will NEVER agree with your puritan fantasy world and your belief in the super natural.

Das

While the actions of the priests and the cover up by the "higher ups" has been reprehensible the vast majority of the men in the Preisthood have taken their vows seriously and toil, quietly under the label of "probably pedophile" from many within and outside the Church.
The new pope should take action to make sure those that covered up these crimes are punished as harshly as those who committed the crimes.

Vog

Vog, here's one of my

Vog, here's one of my fantasies: a new Pope will send Bernard Cardinal Law back to Boston to answer the subpoenas from which he fled.

Benedict

I think back to Christmas Mass at St Peter's and telling my wife he looked frail on TV. I passed it off then, but apparently his health is failing.
He was probably the least "public" pope we've had in awhile and it seems like he was the least traveled IMHO.
I hope they elect a slightly younger man this time - one who is steeped in tradition and is willing to take a hard stance against priestly pedophilia- especially by American priests, and the "cover-up" Bishops and Cardinals.
Vog

Especially American

Well said, Vog. Really, especially American priests. If some kid in Malaysia gets touched by a trusted authority figure, meh, but NIMBY, am I right?

I know, Vog, I know. That's not what you mean. But, see, you think that the people are the problem, not the tradition. The tradition you seem to think is the strength of Catholicism has been to cover up misdeeds performed by religious figures. The tradition has been condemning birth control and damning homosexuals. More tradition seems to be synonymous with less tolerance. Making the rules stronger means they'll go ever further to make sure no one knows they've been broken.

What would be lovely is a Pope that cares not a whit about the dull tradition of the church, but rather its teachings of love, peace, tolerance, etc. A New Testament approach, you could say.

And maybe one that wasn't a Hitler Youth (Ratzinger, you rascal).

The problem is not the pedophiles. It's the culture that shields them. It's the environment where a known pedophile is whisked away from the legal ramifications of his crimes because of tiresome tradition. I think it's well past time for the church to look towards becoming a force for good instead of a justification for hate.

Gov

Gov

Read my response to Das - I called for equally tough measures against those that covered this up.
Yes you are correct I kept it to American priests who got the lions share of publicity. It should read any priest in any country and any church leader.
Thank you for pointing that out.

"And maybe one that wasn't a Hitler Youth (Ratzinger, you rascal)."

Ah to disparage one's past - especially one that I believe wasn't voluntary - just like his military service at the end of the war....interesting.
Nazi Germany towards the end of it's time was a dangerous place to be and the thugs that enforced Nazi rule wouldn't think twice about killing a young Ratzinger. Heck, old men that tried to walk away from defending Berlin were shot in the back.
I hope they elect a younger man to the Papacy. The exuberance JPII brought to the Vatican was palpable and his skiing jaunts were fun to see - especially when the nuns were aghast - but then HE covered up the abuse as well.......
I wonder if the African Cardinal Turkson will be elected?

Vog