Pope's sudden resignation sends shockwaves through Church

VATICAN CITY Mon Feb 11, 2013 6:02pm EST

1 of 26. Pope Benedict XVI attends a consistory at the Vatican February 11, 2013, in this picture provided by Osservatore Romano. Pope Benedict said on Monday he will resign on Feb 28 because he no longer has the strength to fulfil the duties of his office, becoming the first pontiff since the Middle Ages to take such a step.

Credit: Reuters/Osservatore Romano

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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict stunned the Roman Catholic Church on Monday when he announced he would stand down, the first pope to do so in 700 years, saying he no longer had the mental and physical strength to carry on.

Church officials tried to relay a climate of calm confidence in the running of a 2,000-year-old institution, but the decision could lead to uncertainty in a Church already besieged by scandal for covering up sexual abuse of children by priests.

The soft-spoken German, who always maintained that he never wanted to be pope, was an uncompromising conservative on social and theological issues, fighting what he regarded as the increasing secularization of society.

It remains to be seen whether his successor will continue such battles or do more to bend with the times.

Despite his firm opposition to tolerance of homosexual acts, his eight year reign saw gay marriage accepted in many countries. He has staunchly resisted allowing women to be ordained as priests, and opposed embryonic stem cell research, although he retreated slightly from the position that condoms could never be used to fight AIDS.

He repeatedly apologized for the Church's failure to root out child abuse by priests, but critics said he did too little and the efforts failed to stop a rapid decline in Church attendance in the West, especially in his native Europe.

In addition to child sexual abuse crises, his papacy saw the Church rocked by Muslim anger after he compared Islam to violence. Jews were upset over rehabilitation of a Holocaust denier. During a scandal over the Church's business dealings, his butler was accused of leaking his private papers.

In an announcement read to cardinals in Latin, the universal language of the Church, the 85-year-old said: "Well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of St Peter ...

"As from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours (1900 GMT) the See of Rome, the See of St. Peter will be vacant and a conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is."

POPE DOESN'T FEAR SCHISM

Benedict is expected to go into isolation for at least a while after his resignation. Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said Benedict did not intend to influence the decision of the cardinals in a secret conclave to elect a successor.

A new leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics could be elected as soon as Palm Sunday, on March 24, and be ready to take over by Easter a week later, Lombardi said.

Several popes in the past, including Benedict's predecessor John Paul, have refrained from stepping down over their health, because of the division that could be caused by having an "ex-pope" and a reigning pope alive at the same time.

Lombardi said the pope did not fear a possible "schism", with Catholics owing allegiances to a past and present pope in case of differences on Church teachings.

He indicated the complex machinery of the process to elect a new pope would move quickly because the Vatican would not have to wait until after the elaborate funeral services for a pope.

It is not clear if Benedict will have a public life after he resigns. Lombardi said Benedict would first go to the papal summer residence south of Rome and then move into a cloistered convent inside the Vatican walls.

The resignation means that cardinals from around the world will begin arriving in Rome in March and after preliminary meetings, lock themselves in a secret conclave and elect the new pope from among themselves in votes in the Sistine Chapel.

There has been growing pressure on the Church for it to choose a pope from the developing world to better reflect where most Catholics live and where the Church is growing.

"It could be time for a black pope, or a yellow one, or a red one, or a Latin American," said Guatemala's Archbishop Oscar Julio Vian Morales.

The cardinals may also want a younger man. John Paul was 58 when he was elected in 1978. Benedict was 20 years older.

"We have had two intellectuals in a row, two academics, perhaps it is time for a diplomat," said Father Tom Reese, senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. "Rather than electing the smartest man in the room, they should elect the man who will listen to all the other smart people in the Church."

Liberals have already begun calling for a pope that would be more open to reform.

"The current system remains an 'old boy's club' and does not allow for women's voices to participate in the decision of the next leader of our Church," said the Women's Ordination Conference, a group that wants women to be able to be priests.

"GREAT COURAGE"

The last pope to resign willingly was Celestine V in 1294 after reigning for only five months, his resignation was known as "the great refusal" and was condemned by the poet Dante in the "Divine Comedy". Gregory XII reluctantly abdicated in 1415 to end a dispute with a rival claimant to the papacy.

Lombardi said Benedict's stepping aside showed "great courage". He ruled out any specific illness or depression and said the decision was made in the last few months "without outside pressure". But the decision was not without controversy.

"This is disconcerting, he is leaving his flock," said Alessandra Mussolini, a parliamentarian who is granddaughter of Italy's wartime dictator. "The pope is not any man. He is the vicar of Christ. He should stay on to the end, go ahead and bear his cross to the end. This is a huge sign of world destabilization that will weaken the Church."

Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, secretary to the late Pope John Paul, said the former pope had stayed on despite failing health for the last decade of his life as he believed "you cannot come down from the cross."

While the pope had slowed down recently - he started using a cane and a wheeled platform to take him up the long aisle in St Peter's Square - he had given no hint recently that he was considering such a dramatic decision.

Elected in 2005 to succeed the enormously popular John Paul, Benedict never appeared to feel comfortable in the job.

"MIND AND BODY"

In his announcement, the pope told the cardinals that in order to govern "... 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."

Before he was elected pope, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was known as "God's rottweiler" for his stern stand on theological issues. After a few months, he showed a milder side but he never drew the kind of adulation that had marked the 27-year papacy of his predecessor John Paul.

U.S. President Barack Obama extended prayers to Benedict and best wishes to those who would choose his successor.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the pope's decision must be respected if he feels he is too weak to carry out his duties. British Prime Minister David Cameron said: "He will be missed as a spiritual leader to millions."

The Archbishop of Canterbury, leader of the worldwide Anglican communion, said he had learned of the pope's decision with a heavy heart but complete understanding.

CHEERS AND SCANDAL

Elected to the papacy on April 19, 2005, Benedict ruled over a slower-paced, more cerebral and less impulsive Vatican.

But while conservatives cheered him for trying to reaffirm traditional Catholic identity, his critics accused him of turning back the clock on reforms by nearly half a century and hurting dialogue with Muslims, Jews and other Christians.

After appearing uncomfortable in the limelight at the start, he began feeling at home with his new job and showed that he intended to be pope in his way.

Despite great reverence for his charismatic, globe-trotting predecessor -- whom he put on the fast track to sainthood and whom he beatified in 2011 -- aides said he was determined not to change his quiet manner to imitate John Paul's style.

A quiet, professorial type who relaxed by playing the piano, he showed the gentle side of a man who was the Vatican's chief doctrinal enforcer for nearly a quarter of a century.

The first German pope for some 1,000 years and the second non-Italian in a row, he traveled regularly, making about four foreign trips a year, but never managed to draw the oceanic crowds of his predecessor.

The child abuse scandals hounded most of his papacy. He ordered an official inquiry into abuse in Ireland, which led to the resignation of several bishops.

Scandal from a source much closer to home hit in 2012 when the pontiff's butler, responsible for dressing him and bringing him meals, was found to be the source of leaked documents alleging corruption in the Vatican's business dealings.

Benedict confronted his own country's past when he visited the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz. Calling himself "a son of Germany", he prayed and asked why God was silent when 1.5 million victims, most of them Jews, were killed there.

Ratzinger served in the Hitler Youth during World War Two when membership was compulsory. He was never a member of the Nazi party and his family opposed Adolf Hitler's regime.

(Additional reporting by James Mackenzie, Barry Moody, Cristiano Corvino, Alexandra Hudson in Berlin, and Dagamara Leszkowixa in Poland; Editing by Peter Graff)

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Comments (91)
DeanMJackson wrote:
As I’ve been telling Reuters readers now for a year, there’s a “power struggle” going on within the Vatican that the media is not reporting. The “power struggle” has to do with Moscow’s infiltration of the Vatican by at least the Pontificate of John XXIII. This dating for the infiltration is good, since it coincides with the inexplicable refusal to release the Third Secret of Fatima by no later than 1960.*

Why would Communists worry about releasing what to them would be a silly superstition? The fact that the “silly superstition” mentioned the infiltration of the Catholic Church by what the document called “Satanic” forces would have been enough to keep the “inconvenient” document sealed. There was no way such a document was going to see the light of day, since its release would compel a closer examination of the Vatican by independent observers, possibly compromising Moscow’s recent usurpation of the Holy See.

However, thanks to the recent Vatican “power struggle” breaking into the open, Communists within the Holy See were forced to reveal their presence by the incredulous appointment of the Marxist-oriented, liberation theologist Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller to head up the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the purpose for the appointment to plug the damaging leaks from the Vatican. This is the man that the supposedly “conservative” Pope Benedict knows he can trust 100% to prevent any more embarrassing leaks from the Vatican…a Marxist-oriented, liberation theology enthusiast. Does this make sense to you?
We now have proof that the current “power struggle” within the Vatican has nothing to do with a clash of “conservative clerics” vs. “liberal clerics”.

This explains the Vatican’s inexplicable, and relatively new policy (fifty years old or so), of passing onto other parishes priests that sexually abuse children, ensuring (1) that the number of such sex crimes would increase geometrically; and (2) encourage pedophiles to join the seminaries. Now, such a policy could not be kept under wraps for long (as the Vatican well knew), since the massive number of crimes would have eventually reached a critical mass, exploding into the news headlines as they did. Only an INTENTIONAL Vatican policy of encouraging child sex crimes by priests explains the Vatican’s behavior these last fifty years. Believers in Christ wouldn’t subject children to sexual abuse, but Communists would in order to weaken the Catholic Church.

Believers would never institute a policy of passing sexual deviant priests onto other unsuspecting parishes since such an act would condemn the policy’s benefactors to everlasting Hell! Of course, Communists laugh at the concept of Hell, therefore they would have no trepidation nor see a moral problem with subjecting children to sexual abuse. Communists believe the ends justifies the means, so if children must suffer to bring about the Communist victory over the West, then the policy is moral.

Those of you not familiar with the true events taking place within the “former” USSR these past 21 years will naturally ask, “Wouldn’t the Moscow network within the Vatican have fallen apart as soon as the collapse of the USSR took place in late 1991?” Then why are Soviet era Communist agents still in control of the Russian Orthodox Church (and all other religious institutions within the 15 republics that made up the USSR, including religious institutions in the East Bloc)? Why weren’t those high-ranking Communist agent-Quislings identified and thrown out of the Christian denominations they still infest?

For the answer to that question, first Google: “Bulgaria protestant communist agents” and “Bulgaria orthodox communist agents”.

Bulgaria is the only nation to have created (belatedly) a Files Commission looking into Communist-era agents still in power there. Guess what they found? Communist-era agents still in control of the government, media, Churches and other institutions (and the Files Commission is only chartered to investigate from 2003 onwards).

If Files Commissions had been created in all not-so-former East Bloc nations/USSR republics, then we’d get the same results as Bulgaria: That Communist agents are still in control there too.

What this means is that the “collapse” of the USSR in late 1991 was a strategic ruse, as predicted by KGB defector Major Anatoliy Golitsyn (Golitsyn actually correctly predicted that East Bloc nations/USSR would first “liberalize” before they “collapsed”) , the only Soviet-era defector to still be under protective custody in the West, proving (1) the collapses of the USSR/East Bloc were strategic ruses; and (2) that all other Soviet-era defectors who followed Golitsyn were still loyal to their respective Communist intelligence agencies, since all of them provided incorrect intelligence on the future of the USSR/East Bloc.

Unless you’ve read Golitsyn’s 1984 book, “New Lies for Old” (available at Internet Archive), and become familiar with the Communists’ “Long-Range Policy” (which all Communist nations signed onto in 1960 as their “new” and more subtle strategy to neutralize the West), you are ignorant of all matters concerning foreign policy.

Beginning to get the wider picture now?

Now you know why the Russian electorate in 1992 failed to create a de-Communization program in order to ferret out Communist agents still in power. If the “collapse” of the USSR had been real, such a de-Communization program would have been immediately implemented.

The above also explains why the Russian electorate are only electing Soviet-era Communist Party members for President/Prime Minister. If the “collapse” of the USSR had been real, the Russian electorate would never have elected such Quislings back into power.
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*Forty years later in 2000, the Vatican released a four-page forgery, not the one-page, approximately 25-lined document that had been read by a select few before 2000.

Feb 11, 2013 6:45am EST  --  Report as abuse
slyrifference wrote:
I remember when Benedict ascended to the position that he was considered a short-term transitional Pope because of his age. I think 7 years is a pretty good run for someone who wasn’t expected to last.

Feb 11, 2013 7:04am EST  --  Report as abuse
RalphSchmalph wrote:
I believe what you say Mr. Jackson. The Communists have certainly infiltrated the U.S. government and the White House in particular so why wouldn’t they have insinuated themselves into the Roman Catholic Church? Keep telling your story but I don’t have any faith in the mainstream media because they are, at best, the “useful idiots” that Lenin had spoken of.

Feb 11, 2013 8:03am EST  --  Report as abuse
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