Benedict XVI, dubbed God’s rottweiler because of his hardline views, told followers he was too ill to continue with the burden of leading the church. Pope steps down after 8 years saying he is too old and frail to lead Catholic Church Benedict XVI, dubbed God’s rottweiler because of his hardline views, told followers he was too ill to continue with the burden of leading the church. His was a reign embroiled in scandals ranging from paedophile priests to mafia mobsters infiltrating the Vatican.
Benedict XVI, dubbed God’s rottweiler because of his hardline views on everything from homosexuality to rock music and Islam, told followers today he was too ill to continue with the burden of leading the church.
At a meeting of cardinals in the Vatican, he said: “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.”
The announcement stunned the church leaders gathered in the room.
Monsignor Oscar Sanchez of Mexico said: “All the cardinals remained shocked and were looking at each other.”
Another cardinal who was at the meeting said: “We listened with a sense of incredulity as His Holiness told us of his decision to step down from the church that he so loves.”
|Sign? Lightning strikes the Vatican.|
There were extraordinary scenes outside the Vatican after the Pope’s announcement as St Peter’s Church was struck by lightning tonight while crowds looked on in astonishment.Just 24 hours earlier, the Pope, known as Il Papa in Italian, announced on Twitter: “We are all sinners, but His grace transforms us and makes us new.”
The post sparked fears there was more to his resignation than health issues.
The Vatican moved swiftly to deny that was the case but stressed there was no single medical condition that forced the decision or any problems with his papacy. A new pontiff should be in place by Easter, officials said. Benedict XVI’s 89-year-old brother, Georg Ratzinger, said: “His age is weighing on him. At this age my brother wants more rest.”
The pontiff served as right-hand man to John Paul II during his predecessor’s declining years with ill health. It may have influenced his decision to avoid what he saw as the church’s drift in that era. As tributes poured in from political and church leaders, it emerged the Pope had been agonising over whether to retire for months after his controversial papacy was dogged by the scandals.
But in a 2010 interview he said there were issues within the regime which compelled him to remain as leader.
He said: “When the danger is great one must not run away. For that reason, now is certainly not the time to resign.
"Precisely at a time like this one must stand fast and endure the situation. One can resign at a peaceful moment or when one simply cannot go on.
"But one must not run away from danger and say someone else should do it.”
Leader of Catholics in England and Wales the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, who is Archbishop of Westminster, led the tributes to the Pope.
He said: “Benedict’s announcement has shocked and surprised everyone.
"Yet, on reflection, I am sure many will recognise it to be a decision of great courage and characteristic clarity of mind and action.
"The Holy Father recognises the challenges facing the church and that strength of mind and body are necessary for his tasks.
"I salute his courage and his decision.”
Barack Obama told how he “warmly remembers” meeting the Pope in 2009.
He added: “I wish the best to those who will soon gather to choose his successor.”
David Cameron, who met Benedict in London in 2010, said: “He has worked tirelessly to strengthen Britain’s relations with the Holy See.
"He will be missed as a spiritual leader to millions.” And Labour leader Ed Miliband added: “His decision is a brave one .”
The Pope will resign on February 28 under Canon Law, an ancient clause never used as pontiffs are expected to die in office.
The procedure to select a replacement will begin 15 to 20 days later.
Lawyers say the church is entering “uncharted waters” as there is no law to govern a former pope.
Controversy has dogged Benedict throughout his reign.
Even before he was appointed he labelled homosexuality a “more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil” and said rock music could be a “vehicle of anti-religion”.
He later sparked fury by quoting a Byzantine emperor calling Islam “evil and inhuman”.
A trip to Africa in 2009 was overshadowed by his rejection of the use of condoms to stop the spread of Aids.
He also infuriated Jews by lifting the excommunication of holocaust denier and English cleric Richard Williamson.
His final years were dogged by the Vatileaks scandal where a series of faxes highlighted corruption in the Vatican Bank and Mafia links.
The Pope’s butler was uncovered as the source and jailed.
Assistant editor of Catholic newspaper The Tablet Christopher Lamb said: “Wikileaks was a blow to the Pope and raised questions about Vatican management.
"There are a number of incidents that may not be looked back upon favourably.”
Born Joseph Ratzinger in 1927 at Marktl in Bavaria, Benedict XVI was one of three children.
In 1941 he was conscripted into the Hitler Youth. He joined the German army but deserted and spent time as prisoner at an American camp.
He was ordained in 1951 and became Pope in 2005.
Popes who fought on
POPE Benedict’s resignation has been attributed to illness but many pontiffs before him have struggled on without stepping down.
Clement VIII, Jan 1592-Mar 1605: Confined to bed by gout during his later years.
Pius VIII, Mar 1829-Nov 1830: Spent his whole reign in serious ill health.
Pius IX, June 1846-Feb 1878: Seriously ill for 10 years. Despite red facial blemishes and open sores on his legs, which meant he had to be carried everywhere, he insisted on leading daily Mass. He had many operations before epilepsy brought on a fatal heart attack.
Pius XII, Mar 1939-Oct 1958: Spent the last four years of his reign in such terrible ill health he considered abdicating. He cut down on long services and changed his work pattern during three courses of cellular rejuvenation treatment. This brought on almost permanent hallucinations with witnesses telling of his “blood-curdling screams” in the night. Died of heart failure.
Pope John XXIII, Oct 1958-June 1963: Died nine months after being diagnosed with stomach cancer which was kept secret.
John Paul II, Oct 1978-April 2005: Survived two assassination attempts and several cancer scares. He developed Parkinson’s in 2001. Despite difficulty speaking and hearing he continued to tour the world.