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Pope Benedict XVI announces he will step down from papacy

Allan Joseph | Monday, February 11, 2013

For the first time in nearly 600 years, the Pope will step down from the head of the Catholic Church.
Pope Benedict XVI, leader in the Vatican since April 2005, announced he would step down at the end of February in a statement to the College of Cardinals on Monday. He delivered the announcement in Latin to a small gathering of cardinals at the Vatican on Monday morning.
“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,” Pope Benedict said. “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.”
Pope Benedict’s resignation will take effect at 8 p.m. Central European Time on Feb. 28, at which point the College of Cardinals will assemble in conclave to begin selecting the next Pontiff.
University President Fr. John Jenkins released a statement Monday expressing deep gratitude for the pope’s leadership.
“As surprising as today’s announcement is, it is apparent that Pope Benedict has made a decision that is motivated by his deep love for the Church,” Father Jenkins said. “He has been a dedicated pastor to Catholics worldwide for the past eight years – and even before as a cardinal, bishop and priest. As a former university professor, he is a serious intellectual with an understanding of education and appreciation for the life of the mind, and that has been important to all of us in Catholic higher education. As the College of Cardinals considers a successor to Pope Benedict, I pray God will guide their deliberations.”
Jenkins met the pope on Feb. 1, 2006, following a general audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Auditorium, the release stated. At the time, Pope Benedict called Notre Dame “a great Catholic university.”
Nearly 50 Notre Dame Trustees, officers and their spouses were present at the papal audience, according to the release.
Jenkins also attended an address by the pope in April 2008, when Benedict addressed more than 300 Catholic education leaders at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. The release recalled Jenkins’ statements from that visit.
“It was a warm and gracious address that emphasized the value of Catholic education,” Jenkins said at the time. “It was a very positive experience. There was an expression of gratitude and appreciation for everyone in the room involved in Catholic education. He spoke of education as being central to the life of the Church, and, of course, that is what Notre Dame is all about. It was a great affirmation of our central mission.”
University President Emeritus Fr. Theodore Hesburgh offered a faculty position to then Fr. Joseph Ratzinger, who was a German theologian before his election to the papacy, the release stated.
“I was searching around the world for an up-and-coming theologian,” Father Hesburgh said in an interview with the South Bend Tribune soon after Cardinal Ratzinger was elected pope. He wrote a letter of invitation to the young cleric, inviting him to join the faculty for a year or permanently.
“He wrote back, ‘I’d love to come, but I don’t think my English is good enough yet,’ ” Father Hesburgh said.
Bishop Kevin Rhoades, of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, fondly recalled meeting Pope Benedict and expressed his prayers for the future of the Church in his statement.
“It was just one year ago, on February 9, 2012, that Bishop D’Arcy, I, and the other bishops of Indiana met with Pope Benedict during our ad limina visit to Rome,” he said. “I recall with joy and gratitude that meeting and the warmth and kindness of our Holy Father. His words to us were words of brotherly love. I was moved by the Pope’s evident wisdom and holiness.
“I invite all the faithful also to pray for the Cardinals as they prepare in the coming weeks to meet in Conclave for the election of a new Successor to the Apostle Peter.”
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Archbishop of New York, is one of 11 of American cardinals who will gather in Rome to elect a new pope, according to the Vatican website. In his statement, Dolan also expressed gratitude for Pope Benedict’s unifying pastoral message.
“The Holy Father brought the tender heart of a pastor, the incisive mind of a scholar and the confidence of a soul united with His God in all he did. His resignation is but another sign of his great care for the Church,” Dolan said. “Though 78 when he elected pope in 2005, he set out to meet his people – and they were of all faiths – all over the world. … He unified Catholics and reached out to schismatic groups in hopes of drawing them back to the church. More unites us than divides us, he said by word and deed. That message is for eternity.”
Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago and another cardinal who will vote for the next pope, expressed his gratitude for the way Pope Benedict led the Church.
“Pope Benedict XVI has, in all circumstances, placed the will of God for the good of the Church before every other consideration. That same resoluteness of purpose speaks in his statement announcing his resignation from the Chair of Peter,” George said. “He has now shown great courage in deciding, after prayer and soul-searching, to resign his office at the end of this month.
“With the gratitude of sons and daughters in our hearts, we ask the Lord to bless him and give him strength, as we begin to pray now for the one who will succeed him as Bishop of Rome, Successor of Peter and Vicar of Christ.”

Managing Editor Megan Doyle contributed to this report.

 

Contact Allan Joseph at ajoseph2@nd.edu