Ex pope Benedict denies he was forced to resign

VATICAN CITY Wed Feb 26, 2014 6:43am EST

A faithful takes a picture as former pope Benedict XVI arrives for a consistory ceremony led by Pope Francis in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican February 22, 2014. REUTERS/Max Rossi

A faithful takes a picture as former pope Benedict XVI arrives for a consistory ceremony led by Pope Francis in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican February 22, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Max Rossi

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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Former Pope Benedict, in one of the few times he has broken his silence since stepping down nearly a year ago, has branded as "absurd" fresh media speculation that he was forced to quit.

Church law says a pope's resignation is valid only if he takes the decision in full freedom and without pressure from others.

"There is absolutely no doubt regarding the validity of my resignation from the Petrine ministry," Benedict, 86, who now has the title "pope emeritus," said in a letter to the Italian website Vatican Insider published on Wednesday.

"The only condition for the validity of my resignation is the complete freedom of my decision. Speculation regarding its validity is simple absurd," he wrote in answer to a request by the website for comment on recent Italian media reports.

Benedict announced his decision to resign on February 11, 2013 and formally stepped down on February 28, becoming the first pope in 600 years to do so. Two weeks later, Francis was elected the first non-European pope in 1,300 years.

Benedict said at the time that he was stepping down because he no longer had the physical and spiritual strength to run the 1.2 billion member Church and that his decision had been taken in full freedom.

Earlier this month on the day after the first anniversary of the announcement of the resignation, Italian newspaper Libero ran a long story reviving speculation that Benedict may have been forced to resign because of scandals in the Vatican.

In 2012, Benedict's butler was arrested for leaking sensitive documents alleging corruption among Vatican prelates and irregularities in Vatican finances.

Italian media at the time reported that a faction of prelates who wanted to discredit Benedict and pressure him to resign was behind the leaks. The Vatican has always denied this.

Libero also suggested that Benedict chose to continue to wear white because he still felt like he was a pope.

Benedict, who lives in near-total isolation inside a former convent on the Vatican grounds, was also asked about this and responded:

"I continue to wear a white cassock and kept the name Benedict for purely practical reasons. At the moment of my resignation there were no other cloths available. In any case, I wear the white cassock in a visibly different way to how the Pope (Francis) wears it. This is another case of completely unfounded speculation."

In an interview with Reuters earlier this month, Benedict's personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, said the former pope saw his main function now as helping the Church and his successor through prayer.

Benedict has only responded to a few letters in the past year and has appeared in public only a handful of times. The latest was last Saturday when he attended a ceremony in St Peter's Basilica when Pope Francis created new cardinals.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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Comments (3)
SeniorMoment wrote:
It is more likely Pope Benedict simply recognized he was not up to the mental and physical stress of firing close associates in the Vatican, and preferred to have someone else do that. If you want you can call that forced to resign by his personal limitations. He was so far removed though from day to day Vatican operations he probably had little knowledge of what was going on beyond a general sense of a problem needing to be dealt with, and he realized that a Pope should have more vigor.

Benedict actually has set a very good precedent in retiring. Popes served for life because in past centuries the life of a Pope was much shorter. In fact a mechanism needs to be in place to involuntarily replace future popes when they become long term physically or mentally impaired. The world’s Catholics don’t want to be embarrassed by a Pope that become senile or loses control because of advanced old age infirmities or extensive stroke related permanent paralysis of one side of the body or both arms.

Just as we have past living Presidents we should have past living Pop emeritus roles.

Feb 26, 2014 6:57am EST  --  Report as abuse
Art16 wrote:
Pope Benedict seems to have been the victim of financial and spiritual and illegal improprieties that existed well before he was elected Pope in 2005. In my opinion, he continued the status quo of much of the Vatican organization and the “unwritten rules of the road.” The openness of Pope Francis seems to have revealed a structure within a structure that was used to getting its own way, circumventing the rule of law, and otherwise hiding beneath the color of the Church. Only the Vatican can resolve its problems, and it should take heed with more surfacing around every corner.

Feb 26, 2014 7:46am EST  --  Report as abuse
ZonaPetalace wrote:
Yeah, okay.

Feb 27, 2014 8:29am EST  --  Report as abuse
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