Pope Benedict to resign at the end of the month, Vatican says
February 11th, 2013
06:32 AM ET

Pope Benedict to resign at the end of the month, Vatican says

By Hada Messia, CNN

Rome (CNN) - The spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Catholics, Pope Benedict XVI, surprised the world Monday by saying will resign at the end of the month "because of advanced age."

It's the first time a pope has resigned in nearly 600 years.

"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," the pope said, according to the Vatican.

After Benedict's resignation becomes effective on February 28, cardinals will meet to choose a new leader for the church.

Watch Pope Benedict XVI's 2005 Inaugural Mass

"Before Easter, we will have the new pope," the Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said at a news conference.
The decision was not impulsive, he said.

"It's not a decision he has just improvised," Lombardi said. "It's a decision he has pondered over."

After his resignation, Benedict, 85, will probably retire to a monastery and devote himself to a life of reflection and prayer, he said.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, said the decision "shocked and surprised everyone."

"Yet, on reflection, I am sure that many will recognise it to be a decision of great courage and characteristic clarity of mind and action," he said.

Benedict - born Joseph Ratzinger - will not be involved in choosing a new pope or in guiding the church after his resignation, Lombardi said.

Benedict was elected pope in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II, the third-longest-serving leader of the Catholic Church.

He has served during a time in which the church is declining in his native Europe but expanding in Africa and Latin America.

His papacy also has been marked with a series of scandals and controversies, including hundreds of new allegations of sexual abuse by priests.

Ratzinger was born on April 16, 1927, in Marktl Am Inn, Bavaria, a heavily Catholic region of Germany.

He spent his adolescent years in Traunstein, near the Austrian border, during the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler.

Ratzinger wrote in his memoirs that school officials enrolled him in the Hitler Youth movement against his will when in 1941, when he was 14.

He said he was allowed to leave the organization because he was studying for the priesthood, but was drafted into the army in 1943. He served with an anti-aircraft unit until he deserted in the waning days of WW II.

After the war, he resumed his theological studies and was ordained in 1951. He received his doctorate in theology two years later and taught dogma and theology at German universities for several years.

In 1962, he served as a consultant during the pivotal Vatican II council to Cardinal Frings, a reformer who was the archbishop of Cologne, Germany.

As a young priest, Ratzinger was on the progressive side of theological debates, but began to shift right after the student revolutions of 1968, CNN Vatican analyst John Allen Jr. said.

In his book "Cardinal Ratzinger: The Vatican's Enforcer of the Faith," Allen says Ratzinger is a shy and gentle person whose former students spoke of him as a well-prepared and caring professor.

Pope Paul VI named him archbishop of Munich in 1977 and promoted him to cardinal the next month. Ratzinger served as archbishop of Munich until 1981, when he was nominated by John Paul II to be the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a position he held until his election as pope.

He became dean of the College of Cardinals in November 2002 and in that role called the cardinals to Rome for the conclave that elected him the 265th pope.

In his initial appearance as pope, he told the crowd in St. Peter's Square that he would serve as "a simple and humble worker in the vineyards of the Lord."

He is the sixth German to serve as pope and the first since the 11th century.

The last pope to resign was Gregory XII in 1415. He did so to end a civil war within the church in which more than one man claimed to be pope.

CNN's Chelsea J. Carter, Richard Allen Greene, Holly Yan and Michael Pearson contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Pope Benedict XVI

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soundoff (64 Responses)
  1. Richard Cranium

    So Darth Benedict is retiring... I wonder which sith lord will take his place?

    February 11, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      At least the Sith can prove that the supernatural claims of their religion are true.

      February 11, 2013 at 10:53 am |
  2. Bill Deacon

    God bless pope Benedict. May his days be filled with the peace and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. May God guide and protect the Church to find a new pastor

    February 11, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • Of course

      Bill Deacon just loves a rat that would cover up child abuse, are you hoping the next guy was an actual perp?

      February 11, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • William Demuth

      Hey Billy, ya wanna bet Herr Popenstein gets helped along the path to an early dirt nap?

      You Jeebus freaks can NOT afford the reality TV expose your ex nazi lap dog is gonna put on.

      Talk about knowing where the bodies are!

      This guy has the REAL Bible, you know the one with the gay erotica and the truth about old Jeebus

      February 11, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • junior

      Amen, I stand with you Bill Deacon.

      February 11, 2013 at 10:46 am |
    • tallulah13

      May he face the penalty he deserves for protecting pedophiles instead of their victims. May he get it in this lifetime, because when life ends, there can be no justice, only the end of existence.

      February 11, 2013 at 10:59 am |
  3. William Demuth

    Another right wing idiot being forced to resign

    Makes Sarah Pallin's stuff seem almost comical

    February 11, 2013 at 9:43 am |
  4. William Demuth

    I suspect we will need an autopsy to determine the real cause, and I suspect his minnions will be dutifully scrubbing the adolescent fecal matter of his corpse before that happens

    Thats why we need to do it NOW!

    February 11, 2013 at 9:42 am |
  5. Mohammad A Dar

    @Pontifex FREE AT LAST!! FREE AT LAST!!

    February 11, 2013 at 9:34 am |
  6. William Demuth

    Nazi Punk's Must Die

    The vengance of a thousand molested altar boys awaits this maggot.

    While I don't believe in hell. I wish he could burn in it.

    February 11, 2013 at 9:31 am |
  7. Colin

    Da.mn! As an atheist who likes to convert people, this guy was the greatest aid I ever had.

    February 11, 2013 at 9:20 am |
  8. EvidenceBased4

    Two comments:
    Regarding resigning due to declining mental health: if his words and decisions come from God and not from his own mind, why would it matter if he has Alzheimer's? Is he not just a vessel for God's will?

    "the church is declining in his native Europe but expanding in Africa and Latin America." Wow, it is declining where education is good, and expanding where education is poor – shocking!

    I know, I know. Rational thought has no place in this discussion.

    February 11, 2013 at 9:12 am |
  9. think !

    God in Quran says, (holy Islamic scripture)

    “They even attribute to Him sons and daughters, without any knowledge. Be He glorified. He is the Most High, far above their claims.” Quran [6:100]

    “The example of Jesus, as far as GOD is concerned, is the same as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, "Be," and he was.” Quran [3:59]

    ‘They said, "You have to be Jewish or Christian, to be guided." Say, "We follow the religion of Abraham – monotheism – he never was an idol worshiper." [2:135]

    “Proclaim, He is the One and only GOD. The Absolute GOD. Never did He beget. Nor was He begotten. None equals Him." [112:1]

    The Messiah, son of Mary is no more than a messenger like the messengers before him, and his mother was a saint. Both of them used to eat the food. Note how we explain the revelations for them, and note how they still deviate! [5:75]

    It does not befit God that He begets a son, be He glorified. To have anything done, He simply says to it, "Be," and it is. [19:35]

    “No soul can carry the sins of another soul. If a soul that is loaded with sins implores another to bear part of its load, no other soul can carry any part of it, even if they were related. ... [35:18]

    They do not value God as He should be valued. God is the Most Powerful, the Almighty.[22:74]

    If you obey the majority of people on earth, they will divert you from the path of God. They follow only conjecture; they only guess. [Quran 6:116]

    “There shall be no compulsion in religion: the right way is now distinct from the wrong way. Anyone who denounces the devil and believes in God has grasped the strongest bond; one that never breaks. God is Hearer, Omniscient.” [2:256]

    O people, here is a parable that you must ponder carefully: the idols you set up beside God can never create a fly, even if they banded together to do so. Furthermore, if the fly steals anything from them, they cannot recover it; weak is the pursuer and the pursued. [22:73]

    “God: there is no other god besides Him, the Living, the Eternal. Never a moment of unawareness or slumber overtakes Him. To Him belongs everything in the heavens and everything on earth. Who could intercede with Him, except in accordance with His will? He knows their past, and their future. No one attains any knowledge, except as He wills. His dominion encompasses the heavens and the earth, and ruling them never burdens Him. He is the Most High, the Great.” [2:255]

    Thanks for taking time to read my post. Please take a moment to clear your misconception by going to whyIslam org website.

    February 11, 2013 at 9:02 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      This is a lie...god did not say anything in the quran....every word was put there by a man.

      February 11, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
  10. Obliterate the RCC today and avoid the rush!

    Blackmail in an international criminal organization? What a shock. I may faint.

    February 11, 2013 at 8:51 am |
  11. Rev. Rick

    As a former Catholic, it will be interesting to watch this play out. It's obvious that the RCC needs some new blood to rejuvinate the faithful. At the moment it is stuck in an antique theology that has outlived its usefulness in the modern age.

    February 11, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Say what you will about Pius XII and JP II's foibles, they were at least forward thinking enough to accept scientific advances like evolution and the true age of the universe.
      In his 2 1/2 decades as Pontiff, JPII tried to build some bridges with other faiths, which Benedict managed to burn rather quickly.

      February 11, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • junior

      not an accurate statement

      February 11, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • junior

      but I don't have an accurate reply either

      February 11, 2013 at 11:38 am |
  12. Fladabosco

    Jesus made it pretty darned clear that a rich man cannot get into heaven, and to sell all their possessions, give the money to the poor and follow him (Jesus). He doesn't dance around it, he says it very plainly.

    Who is more rich than a man who wears the finest cloths, eats the best food, and has his own country? Don't give me the baloney about how none of it is his. It's his.

    And really, what kind of person would accept a job that pretends they are in fallible? What kind of arrogance does it take to claim to know what god wants?

    February 11, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • Joey

      People who have no idea what they are talking about should probably keep their mouths closed on suck topics.

      February 11, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • junior

      too many fallacies in your statement Fladabosco. You should do serious research before coming to ill informed conclusions

      February 11, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • tallulah13

      I agree with you, Fladabosco. It makes me sick, thinking about that horrible man on his golden throne, living like an emperor in his palace full of treasure, while there are those who follow him who live, and die, in poverty.

      It doesn't even matter what Jesus said. This sort of disparity is disturbing and immoral. What decent human could live such a life?

      February 11, 2013 at 11:04 am |
    • sam

      @Joey/junior/whoever you are at the moment: I agree, it is a suck topic.

      February 11, 2013 at 11:39 am |
  13. Reality

    A parting comment for a pope who was out of touch with reality the day he became a priest:

    The Apostles' Creed 2013: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
    and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    (references used are available upon request)

    February 11, 2013 at 8:30 am |
  14. Cover

    Sounds like his rubber wore out

    February 11, 2013 at 8:28 am |
  15. GulpOff

    Goodbye. Too bad you can't take the whole Religious Circus with you.

    February 11, 2013 at 8:20 am |
  16. Reality

    Too late and not nearly enough to save a fast-sinking ship !!!

    February 11, 2013 at 7:59 am |
  17. ronvan

    Age & mental capacity being talked about as reason? Are there ANY young cardinals out there? Are there ANY women cardinals? Don't think so, they are relagated to "surfdom". But then again most religions do not have women in high religious positions!?

    February 11, 2013 at 7:31 am |
  18. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Pray without ceasing
    Prayer changes things

    February 11, 2013 at 7:29 am |
    • Fladabosco

      What greater arrogance is there than to claim to know what god wants?

      February 11, 2013 at 8:18 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!

      February 11, 2013 at 8:25 am |
  19. Bill Deacon's Conscience

    Well, Billy, are you going to buy into the health condition ruse? Other popes had an attendant with a body bag ready just in case and/or weeks of a death bed vigil. Lets face it they backed old Ratzinger into a corner and left him no choice, bring on the next rat, ah, pope.

    February 11, 2013 at 7:28 am |
  20. midwest rail

    This will make for an interesting day of comments.

    February 11, 2013 at 6:34 am |
    • End Religion

      Hmmm... a Hitler Youth pope mired in an organization' sex scandals. Why retire? He has so much going for him.

      February 11, 2013 at 6:38 am |
    • Mirosal

      You're probably right. But, whoever the next one is sitting on his throne will still attempt to hold society back and keep us in the year 313 not 2013

      February 11, 2013 at 6:39 am |
    • ronvan

      RIGHT! Can't wait. NOT!!!

      February 11, 2013 at 6:45 am |
    • Science

      God made him resign, did not like the angels getting kicked off the team......

      February 11, 2013 at 6:52 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Let the backstabbing, errrr, electioneering begin!

      I bet they will elect a mon-white in order to appeal to their fastest growing segment. A fresh faced black dude from the USA might be perfect. Is there such a potential candidate?

      February 11, 2013 at 7:20 am |
    • Mirosal

      Hot Air .. when this delusional guy was "elected", there was also talk about a couple of South American cardinals being thought of as well. so watch for those too.

      February 11, 2013 at 7:24 am |
    • Diest for POS

      The reason probably has more to do with the bottom line. All the cash that has gone out the door, billions?, over the course of Ratzinger's tenure because of the cover ups that he endorsed could be the real reason. It will be intresting to see if there are more docu-ments floating around besides the butler bunch

      February 11, 2013 at 7:43 am |
    • No incentives for old criminal organizations to actually reform.

      They will elect a "latino" pope who will continue the criminal activities.
      The crimes will continue. Having a new mafioso don at the top is sure to help. You betcha.
      From what I've seen of Catholics and their insidious and pervasive psychopathic reaction patterns, I do not expect any criminal activities to stop. The Vatican is its own country, you know. They don't have any incentive to stop committing crimes at all.

      February 11, 2013 at 7:53 am |
    • Diest for POS

      Deist, pretty dumb to mess up the handle.

      February 11, 2013 at 7:54 am |
    • Fladabosco

      Can't wait for the party when a group of old men get together to decide who will be the next infallible word of god I hope it's me!

      C'mon white smoke! White smoke white smoke white smoke c'mon!! Ooh, it's the black smoke again.

      February 11, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • Akira

      They should elect that statue from the Madonna video "Like A Prayer."

      February 11, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • Good Idea

      They should sing that at old Ratzinger's funeral coming up right soon but using the sub ti-tle "Ode to a BJ".

      February 11, 2013 at 10:40 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.