[ by Charles Cameron — the Pope announces his retirement — from a life of power to a life of prayer ]
If it should happen that the Roman Pontiff resigns his office, it is required for validity that he makes the resignation freely and that it be duly manifested, but not that it be accepted by anyone.
In accordance with this canon, Pope Benedict XVI made the declaration seen in the video above, in which he said that he would resign from his pontificate at the end of this month. The Vatican’s English text of his Declaratio reads:
I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the 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. 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. 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 barque 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. For this reason, and 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, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.
Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust 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. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.
From the Vatican, 10 February 2013
BENEDICTUS PP XVI
Pope Benedict’s tweet as @pontifex yesterday offers an instructive and succinct insight into the Holy Father’s personal considerations:
I have written on Pope Benedict’s ecumenism, all too briefly about his sacramental theology and liturgical writings, of his interfaith work with Muslims, of his remarks contrasting power and the kingdom, and exalting humility and joy as the prime Christian virtues — and most recently and lightheartely, of his opening a twitter account.
The Anglican blogger who styles himself Archbishop Cranmer (despite the fact that his namesake was burned at the stake in 1556 for declaring the pope of his own day the antichrist) gets it right IMO when he writes:
Pope Benedict XVI has been the most searing intellect to occupy the Chair of St Peter for at least a couple of centuries, and the vacuum he leaves will be immense. It was an enormous blessing to the Church that his pontificate coincided with the archepiscopacy of Rowan Williams: together they were theological giants in a sea of prelate pygmies.
Likewise, I am with Damian Thompson, who blogs at the Telegraph, in saying:
He has renewed the worship of the Church, reconnecting it to the majesty and deep piety of the past. He has forged new links with non-Catholics, for example by bringing ex-Anglicans into the fold through the Ordinariate. He has promulgated teaching documents further integrating the love and teaching of Christ with the structures of the Church – structures that, it would appear, he feels now unable to continue ruling.
He will be intensely missed by those of us for whom he was, in his quiet way, the most inspiring Pope of our lifetimes.
Pope Benedict’s great gift to the Church has been his emphasis on beauty in liturgy, his great gift to the world his Encyclical on social justice, Caritas in Veritate: now, perhaps, he is giving himself the greatest gift, that of retirement into “a life dedicated to prayer”.