First Reactions to Pope Benedict’s Resignation [Updated]


I just awoke to the news.

First reaction: Pope Benedict has been speaking openly about the precedent of a pope stepping down due to age or health for years — so this is not totally unexpected.

In retrospect, he probably was trying to prepare us for just such a moment as this one. Just because we have the modern memory of Bl. John Paul II serving until his last breath does not mean every modern pope will do so.

That said, this has not happened in 600 years.

The scene in the Vatican today.

Second reaction: Be not afraid! The Holy Spirit is ultimately in charge of guiding, protecting and providing for the Church of Christ. Let nothing you dismay. We must all be praying to the Holy Spirit today and throughout Lent for the future of the Church.

Third reaction: Speaking of the future of the Church, a conclave will be called February 28th. My father has a list of the current eligible papal electors in the college of cardinals.

I have my own sense for who the forerunners for the next conclave are, but that is for another day.

Please continue to check back as I cover this news throughout the day.

Here’s video of the Holy Father giving this message to his brother cardinals in Latin:

Here’s the pope’s full address to the college of Cardinals as well as Cardinal Dolan’s statement — after the jump:

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 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 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.

Here is Cardinal Dolan’s statement about the news:

The Holy Father brought the tender heart of a pastor, the incisive mind of a scholar and the confidence of a soul united with His God in all he did. His resignation is but another sign of his great care for the Church. We are sad that he will be resigning but grateful for his eight years of selfless leadership as successor of St. Peter.

Though 78 when he elected pope in 2005, he set out to meet his people – and they were of all faiths – all over the world. He visited the religiously threatened – Jews, Muslims and Christians in the war-torn Middle East, the desperately poor in Africa, and the world’s youth gathered to meet him in Australia, Germany, Spain and Brazil.

He delighted our beloved United States of America when he visited Washington and New York in 2008. As a favored statesman he greeted notables at the White House. As a spiritual leader he led the Catholic community in prayer at Nationals Park, Yankee Stadium and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. As a pastor feeling pain in a stirring, private meeting at the Vatican nunciature in Washington, he brought a listening heart to victims of sexual abuse by clerics.

Pope Benedict often cited the significance of eternal truths and he warned of a dictatorship of relativism. Some values, such as human life, stand out above all others, he taught again and again. It is a message for eternity.

He unified Catholics and reached out to schismatic groups in hopes of drawing them back to the church. More unites us than divides us, he said by word and deed. That message is for eternity.

He spoke for the world’s poor when he visited them and wrote of equality among nations in his peace messages and encyclicals. He pleaded for a more equitable share of world resources and for a respect for God’s creation in nature.

Those who met him, heard him speak and read his clear, profound writings found themselves moved and changed. In all he said and did he urged people everywhere to know and have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.

The occasion of his resignation stands as an important moment in our lives as citizens of the world. Our experience impels us to thank God for the gift of Pope Benedict. Our hope impels us to pray that the College of Cardinals under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit choose a worthy successor to meet the challenges present in today’s world.



  • musicacre

    I think it is more important to see Cardinal Arinze’s statement about the retirement. He is a joy to watch, in his simplicity and down-to-earth-ness! No politics with this man!

  • Roman Papabile

    My reaction….. Well, I guess we can flush the theology of marriage between the Vicar of Christ and the Bride of Christ straight down the toilet. It’s divorce papal style.

    This is not helpful for those who look toward the Holy Father as providing an example of Fatherhood.

    Wow. I am not normally a resentful/angry Catholic, but this infuriates me. He’s leaving us. I wonder how my wife and family would feel if I left them? I could simply be an emeritus husband/father.

    The one single biggest mistake I have always thought Vatican II made was allowing retirement, and now it’s personified by a man whom I have believed in for 30 years. (Don’t get me wrong, I still believe in him.) I feel ill, like throwing up.

    This is wrong.

    • Msgr. Charles M. Mangan

      J.M.J. I mourn the Holy Father’s resignation insofar as he will no longer be the Vicar of Christ on earth, though I trust him and his discernment, and I have confidence that this is what God wants of him. I also believe that “Deus providebit”–“God will provide”–a new Shepherd for the Universal Church.

      When a man is ordained to the Holy Priesthood, he becomes wedded to the Church as Christ is. Since Pope Benedict XVI is a priest, he, too, is wedded to the Church.

      When, in 2005, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI, he did not marry the Church anew. Rather, he became the Vicar of Christ by accepting the Petrine Ministry, which he was free to refuse.

      Thus, what we learned today is that His Holiness will relinquish the Petrine Ministry later this month, not that he will divorce the Church. He remains a priest–wedded to the Church as he has been since 1951.

      What the Holy Father is doing is not sinful. For centuries, the Church has allowed for papal resignation.

      Hence, this great man’s spiritual paternity will continue. Thanks be to God and to the Ever-Virgin.

      • Roman Papabile

        I fully understand the idea of a Priest being married to the Church. However, a Priest if also marred to parish when granted stability. A Bishop is “married” to his diocese. This is why I despise the whole allowance for retirement. It breaks that ikon.

        Now the Pope has broken it for the Petrine office. There is far too much theology written on how the Vicar is married to the Bride of Christ.

        I never said it was sinful, but wrong. Do not put words in my mouth. Th Pope is also the Supreme legislator. He could release himself from his vow of celibacy, get married, have children, ordain his sons, and make them Cardinals. Would those actions be right? No.

        No man can judge the Pope, and I will not. But, this individual action is wrong. It is an abandonment of Fatherhood.

        Furthermore, it is extraordinarily bad precedent. Being intimately familiar with the workings of the curia, this will be used to put extraordinary pressure on future Popes.

        • Msgr. Charles M. Mangan

          J.M.J. The Vicar of Christ is married to the Church as a priest and bishop, not as the Pope. His marriage to the Church precedes his Election as the Vicar of Christ and Sucessor of St. Peter. By his departure scheduled for Feb. 28th, he relinquishes his Petrine Ministry, not his Priesthood. He remains wedded to the Church. He is “breaking” nothing.

          • Roman Papabile

            Once again, you miss my point. I agree with you, absolutely, that the Holy Father is still “married” to the Church. But, as Holy Father, there is also an ikon of the marriage to the bride of Christ. Medievalists wrote about this at length. (See Gerson, University of Paris), and it was not an uncommon part of the explanation of the office of the Petrine ministry in ecclesiological dogmatics prior to the council.

            He does break this ikon. There is no question. One of the reasons that this ikon had remain settled for so long is that there was much discussion in the 15th and 16th centuries whether one could remove the Pope from office if he were obviously not fulfilling his duties. The resolution was found by Bellarmine who argued the two were inseperable because of the marriage between the vicar of Christ and his Bride by virtue of freely accepting the office at the time of election. Both Calini and Marini subsequently argued for this, though did not include it in the Catechism of Trent because it was decided that it would open a door for the Protestants to argue the opposite.

            This ikon was subsequently spoken about by Clement XI, Pius VI, and Leo XII.

          • Msgr. Charles M. Mangan

            J.M.J. Once you let go of your anger, it would be great to discuss this question.

          • Roman Papabile

            The anger’s already gone. The above is simply analysis. I know Josef Ratzinger and have always loved him. He’s still making a serious mistake here.

      • Jeannine2

        I know exactly where you’re coming from! I also see this as a negative precedent administratively.

    • abadilla

      How do you know the Holy Father is not feeling well these days and decided that he can no longer exercise the heavy role of the papacy? How do you know the Holy Father decided to do this precisely for the good of the Church?
      Don’t get me wrong, I love and respect him as much as you do, but if he feels he can no longer exercise the grueling duties of his office, I understand. Don’t worry, a flaming liberal does not stand a chance of becoming the next Pope and remember even if a flaming liberal were to become the next Pope, the popes are the guardians of the faith, not the ones who re-define it. Also, we should never forget the role of the Holy Spirit on a papal election or conclave.

      • Roman Papabile

        Um, I ACCEPT the Holy Father at his word. I do not accept that he has made the right decision.

        Christ carried his cross to Golgotha. The Cardinals are expected to be willing to shed blood for the Church. We should be able to expect our Holy Father to be a living sacrifice for the Church.

        But yep, now it’s done. And whenever future Pope gets ill, there will be pressure on him to do this. Amazing how we watched JP II remain in office, yet a man much more fit that JP II, a much better theologian than JP II, and a man perhaps much more suited to working with a curia cannot fulill it now.

        • abadilla

          “Um, I ACCEPT the Holy Father at his word. I do not accept that he has made the right decision.”

          But no one, except God, knows what is in the heart of the Holy Father, so how can you or me or anyone make a judgment on his decision? It must not be easy to be at the zenith of one’s power and then give it all up. That doesn’t speak to you of the virtue of humility?

          “Christ carried his cross to Golgotha. The Cardinals are expected to be willing to shed blood for the Church. We should be able to expect our Holy Father to be a living sacrifice for the Church.”

          And perhaps he has been a living sacrifice to the Church, not in the way Blessed John Paul II was but in his own way because this Pope is not Blessed John Paul II. You and I don’t know. I know I’m 63 and I feel my infirmities already. You can imagine being 85.

          “But yep, now it’s done. And whenever future Pope gets ill, there will be pressure on him to do this. Amazing how we watched JP II remain in office, yet a man much more fit that JP II, a much better theologian than JP II, and a man perhaps much more suited to working with a curia cannot fulill it now.”
          I don’t think there was any pressure on him or his decision would have been invalid according to Canon Law.
          Yes, Pope Benedict is setting up a precedent, at least in modern times, but a precedent set up 600 years ago. Yes, there are risks to his decison for future Popes. Will they resign when they feel frail or will they go to their tombs serving the Lord? In any case, both options are open in Canon Law, or am I wrong?
          In the meantime, we must pray for the Holy Spirit to help the Cardinals made the right decision for the good of the Church.

    • musicacre

      You need to watch the video of Cardinal Arinze’s reaction before you have hysterical throwing up. The Papacy is not about one man. It’s about servants of Jesus. Jesus is the same , yesterday, today and tomorrow! Only the Pope knows which wolves are closing in and how much strength is needed to fight them off. I think we can trust he is a wise man and has good reasons for what he is doing.

  • Msgr. Charles M. Mangan

    J.M.J. Thank you, Thomas. We will always love Pope Benedict XVI–our Beloved Holy Father. We begin now to pray to the Holy Spirit and to Our Lady of Lourdes–whom we especially honor today–for his Successor.

  • John Christensen

    This whole thing scares me. I pray there is an end to Left-leaning Social Justice gang in the Church, and maybe a change in the Holy Father is what is called for?

    • Nathan

      Um, with all due respect, that’s imprudent and impossible. It’s the Church’s mission to serve the poor and lowly.

    • tranxtian

      A “catholic” praying for an end to “social justice” in the Church. I’m sure that Jesus would be as proud of you as he is with the three people that liked your comment.

      • Scott W.

        I believe John is referring to false social justice–the one that is merely secular progressivism running around in Catholic drag.

      • abadilla

        No Tranxtian, John is writing about those Catholics who insist in confusing Catholic social justice teaching with Leftist politics and sound hollow because they care about every human being EXCEPT the unborn. Hypocrites!

    • Greg Smith

      John ~ Social Justice is part and parcil of our faith. Every pope in the last 3 centuries has preached about it.

      • chris scanlan

        the key words are “left-leaning”. There is nothing wrong with Charity or “social justice”.. the problem is totalitarian government taking freedoms and liberties away from good folks all in the name of “compassion”

      • abadilla

        Correct, and so is the defense of the unborn that many social justice Catholics willfully and shamefully ignore!

  • Suzanne Mays Wehrly

    Beautiful message! Thank you and God bless :)

  • ProLifeMommyof2

    Thank you for this, post, Mr. Peters. At first, I was shocked at the timing… until I realized just how perfect it is. Come Easter–it will be a new springtime in the Church. If it be God’s will, I pray the cardinals elect the first American Pope: Cardinal Raymond Burke. †

    • Jeannine2

      It will not be an American esp Burke who is too divisive.



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