Pope Benedict XVI seen wearing a sombrero given to him during last year's Papal visit to Mexico. AFP: Ronaldo Schemidt photoIn a surprise announcement from the Vatican on Monday, Pope Benedict XVI announced his retirement effective the end of this month. Pope Benedict, who succeeded the late John Paul II in 2005. Born Josef Ratzinger in 1927, he was a former professor at the University of Bonn and served as Archbishop of Munich and Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of the Sacred Doctorine for the Congregation of the Faith for the Vatican. In April 2005, a Papal conclave elected Ratzinger as John Paul II's successor after two days of deliberations.
The 85-year old Pope was reportedly stepping down due to health reasons, according to the Vatican. The Pope's brother, George Ratzinger, told reporters that doctors had advised Benedict XVI from making any further trans-Atlantic journeys.
Benedict's statement reads in part:
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 bark 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 recognise 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.The conclave's 2005 decision to select Ratzinger was not without controversy. During WWII, Ratzinger was conscripted into the Hitler Youth and then the German Army in 1943. Towards the end of the war, he deserted his post [running the risk of getting shot by the SS as a deserter- NANESB!] to return to his family's home in Traunstein just as the US Army was turning it into a command post. After three months in an Allied POW camp, Ratzinger was released and hitched a ride home on a milk truck.
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.
Within the last year, Benedict XVI has travelled to Mexico, Lebanon and Cuba.
Benedict XVI's resignation is a rare example of a Pope stepping down instead of remaining as pontiff until his death [as somebody on twitter put it "The last time a Pope resigned, a handful of Vikings were the only Europeans who knew about North America"- NANESB!]. The last pope to step down was Pope Gregory XII in 1415 during what Vatican scholars call the Great Western Schism when three different Papal candidates were selected by rival factions of the church. Gregory XII resigned a decade into his rule to allow a council to select a candidate that would be recognized by all factions.