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Pope Benedict XVI Cites Advancing Age and Poor Health for Resignation

Waving to the Crowd

Pope Benedict XVI announced early Monday his intention to step down from the Roman Catholic Church’s highest office by the end of the month. He cited his advancing age — he is 85 years old — and bad health as his reasons for his resignation. He is the first pope to resign since Pope Gregory XII in 1415.

At the age of 78, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was annointed the 265th successor to St. Peter as bishop of Rome April 19, 2005. As Pope Benedict XVI, he was the first pope of German descent in 1000 years and the first pope to use Twitter. His eight-year term has been riddled with controversy as well, including his handling of allegations of sexual abuse by priests, statements made about Muslims in 2006, and the Vatileaks controversy.

Pope Benedict XVI supported many of the sweeping reforms made by the Second Vatican Council of 1962 that opened up the Catholic Church to embrace concepts such as human rights, democracy and freedom of religion.

Source: Britannica.com

Graphics and research by Elizabeth Shell, Vanessa Dennis, Travis Daub and Joshua Barajas.

Here is Pope Benedict XVI’s statement in-full:

Dear Brothers,

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.

PBS NewsHour’s Coverage of Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican from 2005-2013:

Read more:

The Associated Press: A timeline of Pope Benedict XVI’s life.

National Catholic Reporter: “Can a pope resign?

Be sure to watch the NewsHour broadcast Monday at 6 p.m. ET online or on your local PBS station for more coverage and analysis of the surprise resignation.

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