Why did the Pope resign?
February 11th, 2013
02:26 PM ET

Why did the Pope resign?

By Eric Marrapodi CNN Belief Blog Editor
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(CNN)–The questions reverberated from the Vatican to every corner of the Catholic world and left a billion members scratching their heads over something not seen since 1415 - why is the pope resigning now?

Pope Benedict XVI, 85, said Monday that it was because of his age.

"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," he read in Latin to a group of cardinals gathered to examine causes for canonization.

The pressures may well have been too much for him to bear. As pope he was the bishop of Rome, the head of a tiny country, and spiritual shepherd to a billion people.

'[I]n 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," he continued in his statement.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi, head of the Vatican press office, told reporters there was no specific health crisis or disease that forced the pope to make the decision at this time.

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“The basic take is he is stable and could have gone on at a lower level for some time,” said John Allen, CNN's senior Vatican analyst. Allen pointed out there were no recent hospitalizations or public falls, and the pope likely "decided rather that he would pull the plug now instead of waiting for disaster.”

“Timing is the big shock. We simply had no indication this was coming," Allen said. "The Vatican quite honestly leaks like a sieve. There was no hint this was coming down the pike.”

At 78 when he became pope, he was not a young man and said at the time that he anticipated his papacy would be short.

Before becoming the pope, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had a quiet retirement in mind. He was serving Pope John Paul II as the head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, the doctrinal watchdog for the church once called the Inquisition.

In that role, Benedict worked beside Pope John Paul II and watched up close as Parkinson's disease slowly ravaged his predecessor.

When Pope John Paul II died in 2005, Ratzinger was just two years from a forced retirement as a cardinal.

When he was elected by the College of Cardinals to be pope, he joined a line of men that stretched 2,000 years from Jesus' disciple Peter to today.

What is known about the pope’s medical history is scant: In 1991 he had a brain hemorrhage, but that did not prevent him from continuing his career. And in 2009 a fall led to a broken wrist. So his decision to leave his post while showing little sign of any ailment has opened the door to speculation.

"The sad suspicion is his mind is going," said Michael Sean Winters, a visiting fellow at the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America and a blogger for Distinctly Catholic at the National Catholic Reporter.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami said he thought the pope looked "frail" when he was in Cuba earlier this year. He walks with a cane and often could be seen struggling to move around the altar as he celebrated Mass.

“At 85 years old, in your 86th year, I think you’re entitled to walk with a cane," Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., said at a news conference. He was at the Vatican with the pope for much of October for a synod meeting. "He seemed not only very alert but full of energy,” Wuerl said.

"He presided at meeting after meeting after meeting, there was no doubt he was in full possession of his faculties. He would give talks to us without notes in front of him. I am younger than the pope and I wouldn’t have begun my remarks without notes," Wuerl said. "He had no problem at all speaking with great clarity.”

Allen, who was at an event with the pope with a visiting dignitary, recently said, “He was all there mentally.”

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Even if his mind remains sharp, the office brings with it a schedule that would exhaust men a quarter of the pope's age.

There are endless meetings at the Vatican with clergy, diplomats and heads of state. This year he completed hour-long meetings with every bishop in the United States, according to Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois.

“It’s a grueling and demanding schedule to keep up with,” Paprocki said.

As the pope, “there’s an expectation you’re going to be doing trans-Atlantic flights and his doctors have warned him against it the whole time," Winters said.

Last year alone the pope traveled to Mexico, Cuba, and Lebanon.

While the most plausible explanation for his resignation seems to be the most benign, there are other elements of scandal and mismanagement at the Vatican that may have also played a role.

“No one is going to say this was a well-managed papacy,” Winters said.

There were scandals that rocked both the church as a whole and the tightly knit community in Vatican City.

The child sex abuse scandal continued to plague the church globally even as strict reforms were put in place. A visible sign of the scandal at the coming conclave to select a new pope will be Cardinal Roger Mahoney, the former archbishop of Los Angeles, who was stripped of his public and administrative duties this month by his successor, Archbishop Jose Gomez, for his role in covering up a child sex abuse scandal. A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles confirmed Mahoney will be attending the conclave.

Inside the walled compound of the Vatican City, the Vatican Bank is being investigated for noncompliance with European money laundering protections. The head of the bank left in disgrace.

The pope saw his own butler betray him by stealing documents from his desk and passing them to journalists, and internal battles erupt over alleged mismanagement.

On Sunday, the pope tweeted, "We must trust in the mighty power of God’s mercy. We are all sinners, but His grace transforms us and makes us new."

The mention of personal sin was not out of character with the Christian belief outlined in Paul's letter to the Romans that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

In his statement Monday he again turned to flaws, saying, "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."

Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said he expects a new pope will be in place in time for Easter.

The pope gave little indication of what his future might hold, where he would live and what life for a former pope might entail. He concluded his statement by saying, "I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer."

Full Coverage: The pope resigns

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Bishops • Catholic Church • Pope Benedict XVI • Pope John Paul II • Vatican

soundoff (1,015 Responses)
  1. Paul Price

    What ever happened to civility?

    February 13, 2013 at 6:15 am |
    • Science

      Was the RCC civil with children ? No they were not..

      February 13, 2013 at 6:21 am |
  2. lovingrose

    The Pope has surprised the world. He is strong in mind to do his duties; but not healthy enough to fulfill his duties. In that way he has done a great thing. In the world of fight for the authority, he has shown the way of renunciation, so great. Read for more http://astraunic.com/2013/02/12/the-renunciation-of-the-pope/

    February 13, 2013 at 1:40 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      He should be in prison.

      February 13, 2013 at 2:40 am |
  3. lionlylamb



    February 12, 2013 at 9:38 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Why would Satan want a telescope?

      February 12, 2013 at 11:55 pm |
  4. Nietodarwin

    Forcing a child into a RELIGION IS CHILD ABUSE. Like other forms of child abuse, it is the abused who continue the abuse as adults, perpetuating the cycle. That's all "believers" really are, kids who were brainwashed who continue the abuse of the young, weak minded, and vulnerable now that they are adults. Shame Shame. Taking kids to church should be against the law.

    February 12, 2013 at 9:06 pm |
    • lol??

      Gripe, gripe, gripe, daaaaaahhhhwin.

      Have you seen the silly laws they made because of your childish work??
      They took childish to a whole 'nuther level!!

      February 12, 2013 at 9:17 pm |
    • ..

      lol??, have you learned how to tie your own shoes yet?

      February 12, 2013 at 10:33 pm |
    • ¿¿lol

      stupi d lol??

      February 12, 2013 at 10:53 pm |
  5. Philly Guy

    Why did the Pope resign? The answer is obvious. The Pope is, reportedly, a Philadelphia Eagles fan. The news of the Eagles signing Micheal Vick to a new contract stretched his faith to the absolute limit. The Pope decided that the existence of an all loving, all merciful god was impossible under these circu-mstances, so he decided that his lifetime of sacrificing, kneeling and praying were pretty much a waste. I mean, who could blame the man?

    February 12, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
    • Reality

      And a new coach will not help the sad, sad Eagles just like a new pope will not help a crumbling RCC.

      February 12, 2013 at 11:34 pm |
  6. Nietodarwin

    Will the new pope give away the gold chalice given to the vatican by Hitler, (wonder from whose teeth that gold came ?)

    "Christians are losers" (Ted Turner)

    February 12, 2013 at 8:37 pm |
  7. Nietodarwin

    I look forward to the last pope ever, the end of the church, and the end of all of it's protestant relatives. BRAISE THE LORD

    February 12, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
    • Four Up On You

      Hear hear, Nietodarwin.

      and "braise the lord" -love it. 🙂

      February 12, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
    • Al

      Isn't supposed to be braise the lard?

      February 12, 2013 at 11:58 pm |
  8. bzonline123

    Raised up and being put down by same power. Obviously our Southern Jersey little environment still plays the game of hating Jew. Interestingly I realize Jew is happily to be hated. In that case, congratulation, everybody finds his position in this world.

    February 12, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
  9. Odin

    Bah. Quitter.

    February 12, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
  10. babs

    i hope the next pope understands that the policies in force during the history of the catholic church need a major overhaul. letting millions in africa die of HIV and infant and maternal mortality because of antiquated and idiotic ideas about contraception, keeping strong the hideous prejudice against the gay and transgendered, being a self policing body that hides the crimes of its clergy....the list goes on and on. you can call many of the faults of the catholic church "beliefs", but that does not make them right.

    February 12, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
  11. lionlylamb


    February 12, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
    • lionlylamb


      February 12, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
  12. Kindness

    This is my experience... Thank you.

    MY personal testimony.
    A thought to consider without an ego response

    I Accepted Jesus christ as my lord and saviour. You never know how soon is too late. Transcend the worldly illusion of enslavement.
    The world denounces truth....

    Accepting Jesus Christ (for me) resulted in something like seeng a new colour. You will see it .....but will not be able to clearly explain it to anyone else..... Its meant to be that way to transend any selfism within you.

    Also... much the world arranges "surrounding dark matter into something to be debated" in such a way that protects/inflates the ego.

    The key is be present and transcend our own desire to physically see evidence. We don't know anyways by defending our own perception of dark matter.

    Currently.... most of us are constructing our own path that suits our sin lifestyle. Were all sinners. Knowing that we are is often an issue. But both christians and non are sinners. Even once we are saved by christs merciful grace we will still experience adversity to mold us to adhering to the truth.
    We will slip... But not fall of the ship ...carrying us onward to perfection in christs grace.

    We don't like to Let go and let god. We want control to some degree. This is what Jesus asks us to do. "Follow me".
    It's the hardest thing to do... but is done by letting the truth of scripture lead you (redemptive revelation)... as I said .

    Try reading corinthians and see if it makes sense to you. Try it without a pre conceived notion of it being a fairy tale.
    See the truth...
    do we do what it says in todays society... is it relevant... so many have not recently read and only hinge their philosophy on what they have heard from some other person...which may have been full of arogance pride or vanity..

    Look closely at the economy ponzi, look at how society idolizes Lust , greed , envy, sloth, pride of life, desire for knowledge, desire for power, desire for revencge,gluttony with food etc .

    Trancsend the temporal world.

    Just think if you can find any truth you can take with you ....in any of these things. When you die your riches go to someone who will spend away your life..... You will be forgotten.... history will repeat iteslf.... the greatest minds knowledge fade or are eventually plagerzed..... your good deeds will be forgotten and only give you a fleeting temporary reward . your learned teachings are forgotten or mutated..... your gold is transfered back to the rullers that rule you through deception. Your grave will grow over . This is truth .

    Trancsend your egoism and free yourself from this dominion of satan. Understand you are a sinner and part of the collective problem of this worldly matrix... Repent.... Repent means knowing (to change) The Holy spirit (within) will convict you beyond what you think you can do by yourself. Grace is given to those who renounce the world. That are" in" the world but not "of " the world.

    Evidence follows faith. Faith does not follow evidence..... Faith ....above reason in Jesus Christ.

    Faith comes by Reading or Hearing the word of god from the bible . Ask Jesus in faith for dicernment and start reading the new testament... You will be shocked when you lay down your preconceived notions and ....see and hear truth ... see how christ sets an example ... feel the truth....

    Read Ecclesiastes. Read romans or corinthians.

    You cant trancend your own egoism by adapting a world philosophy to suit your needs. Seek the truth in Christ.

    Sell all your cleverness and purchase true bewilderment. You don't get what you want ....you get what you are by faith above reason in christ.

    I promise this has been the truth for me. In Jesus christ .

    Think of what you really have to lose. ...your ego?

    Break the Matrix of illusion that holds your senses captive.

    once you do . you too will have the wisdom of God that comes only through the Holy Spirit. Saved By grace through Faith. Just like seeing a new colour.... can't explain it to a transient caught in the matrix of worldly deception.
    You will also see how the world suppresses this information and distorts it

    You're all smart people . I tell the truth. Its hard to think out of the box when earthly thinking is the box.
    I'ts a personal free experience you can do it free anytime . Don't wait till you are about to die.. START PUTTING YOUR TREASURES WHERE THEY REALLY MATTER >
    Its awsome and It's just between you and Jesus

    my testimony

    Romans 10:9

    "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved
    Last eve I passed beside a blacksmith’s door,
    And heard the anvil ring the vesper chime;
    The, looking in, I saw upon the floor
    Old hammers, worn with beating years of time.
    “How many anvils have you had,” said I,
    “To wear and batter all these hammers so?”
    “Just one,” said he, and then with twinkling eye,
    “The anvil wears the hammers out, you know.”
    And so, thought I, the anvil of God’s Word,
    For ages skeptic blows have beat upon;
    Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard,
    The anvil is unharmed – the hammers gone.

    Truth is..exclusive

    February 12, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
    • lionlylamb


      February 12, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • Righteo

      It's fun to use your imagination and fantasize stuff like that, isn't it?

      February 12, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • Marky Merlot

      Please don't preach (and on several pope-related articles), as you won't convert the free thinkers.

      February 12, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
    • manbearpig


      February 12, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
  13. How Can People Believe in this Sh!t??????????

    Christianity is stone-age nonsense, people!

    February 12, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      I guess swinging from banana trees didn't allow your ancestors much time for writing?

      February 12, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
    • The Dating Game!

      The Old Testament myths would be stone age, but the New Testament myths are early iron age.

      February 12, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
    • Banteng

      How can you not believe in Christianity? Do you have a single shred of evidence, other than your own atheist beliefs, that Christianity is false? "I believe it is so, therefore it is"... You and the religious set share the same goofy, hypocritical pretzel logic.

      February 12, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
    • It's like this

      Not so. The complete lack of any and all evidence anywhere, from the tiniest subatomic particle to the vast expanses of space, is itself very very strong evidence that something does not exist. That applies ot all claimed dieties, leprechauns, pixies, and so on.

      So the probability of the existence of any god is infintessimally low. Then look at the scriptures and claims of the various religions, which is the only thing they can provide, and see if they stand up to scrutiny. Let's use Christianity as an example (but all fall prey to this):

      Jesus said that within the lifetime of some of his audience, the end of the world would occur, complete with many specific events. None of it happened, and that generation passed 1900 years ago. Jesus was wrong. Gods cannot be wrong. Jesus therefore was not god.

      Let's do it again: Jesus said at the fig tree that if you pray, what you pray for will definitely happen, exactly as you ask for, including having a mountain throw itself into the sea. Prayer definitely does not work the way Jesus said it definitely would. Jesus was wrong, gods cannot be wrong, therefore Jesus was not god and the Bible is discredited.

      Which takes to probability of god existing and it being the Christian version to zero.

      February 12, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
    • Willm1515

      The Stone Age was well before Jesus's time

      February 12, 2013 at 7:04 pm |
    • Honestly

      It's not that I'm convinced any of it exists, I just resent the idea of allowing someone else to tell me what I can and can't think about...of course that's just one person's opinion.

      February 12, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
  14. HeavenSent

    I like to wipe myself with 80 grit sand paper.

    February 12, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
    • Gus

      And we want you to continue that tradition, sweetie. Rougher sandpaper would be more holy and sanctified, though, so you should try that too.

      February 12, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Ooooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhh, phony HeavenSent's nose is out of joint again. LOL.

      February 12, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      1 atheist, multiple handles to prove that there must be more fools than he.

      February 12, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
    • Banteng

      Then your life must be a pain in the a$$.

      February 12, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
  15. lionlylamb


    February 12, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
    • Banteng

      That is it? The Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, Adi Da, Jim Jones and L. Ron Hubbard could do the same thing.

      February 12, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
  16. Al

    I've been patiently waiting for article number 28 about the pope before making a reply, but this is taking too long. See ya in a week.

    February 12, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
  17. EX catholic

    Another stupid question about the RCC by CNN!!

    Because that silly pointed hat and all that Gold all over, is too heavy and the Prada shoes were too tight and were hurting his corns.

    Seriously now, he didn’t have another choice other than being put to sleep by someone. Now at least he can hang around for a while in the nursing home being taken care of, till he drops.

    Worst yet, without a wife, nor children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews or any other descendants to visit him or inherit anything from him. Whatever fortune, riches or wealth if any at all he may have make, now any and all goes to the treasury of the RCC. What a way to waste your life!!

    February 12, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
  18. lionlylamb


    February 12, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • Banteng

      Is that Elvis in the background?

      February 12, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
  19. lol??

    Ain't the bigot A&A's sweet little devils??

    February 12, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • ..

      .....having learned a new word on her "Word-a-Day" calandar, but failing to note the definition, lol?? persists in using "bigot" incorrectly.

      February 12, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • ¿¿lol

      screw ball.

      February 12, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
  20. HeavenSent

    Heaven sent us tsunamis, hurricanes, tornados, plus meningitis, lupus, typhoid, and other diseases and cancers too numerous to mention that have caused intense suffering to millions upon millions of people. Wow, god must be quite the cruel jerk.


    February 12, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Phony HeavenSent. You're too easy, not to mention, simple.

      Scotty needs to get a life.

      February 12, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • Answer

      Look at the whacko bat going back to it's Scotty. Hilarious.

      February 12, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
    • derp

      Awesome, that nutbag wench HeavenScent is back!

      February 12, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
    • Answer

      HeavenSent coming back to the blogs gives every christian a clear path of insight as to where they will end up themselves. I enjoy watching every one of them turning out to be like HS. XD

      February 12, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, the narcissistic atheists can't post solo, always needing phony backup(s) to agree with their babble.

      February 12, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • ..

      Somebody didn't take her anti-psychotics meds today.

      February 12, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
    • OH No!

      He sends all of those things to reminde us how much he loves us

      February 12, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
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About this blog

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.