Pope Benedict XVI announces his resignation in a surprise statement
Pope Benedict XVI is to resign at the end of this month after nearly eight years as the head of the Catholic Church, saying he is too old to continue at the age of 85.
The unexpected development – the first papal resignation in nearly 600 years – surprised governments, Vatican-watchers and even his closest aides.
The Vatican says it expects a new Pope to be elected before Easter.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope in 2005 after John Paul II’s death.
“I have had to recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me” Pope Benedict XVI
The BBC’s David Willey in Rome says the move has come as a shock – but adds that in theory there has never been anything stopping Pope Benedict or any of his predecessors from stepping aside.
Under the Catholic Church’s governing code, Canon Law, the only conditions for the validity of such a resignation are that it be made freely and be properly published.
But resignation is extremely rare: the last Pope to step aside was Pope Gregory XII, who resigned in 1415 amid a schism within the Church.
A Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said that even Pope Benedict’s closest aides did not know what he was planning to do and were left “incredulous”. He added that the decision showed “great courage” and “determination”. Read further in BBC
The Muslim Times’ Editor’s comments: We wish the Pope all the best.
The Pope may now have more time at his disposal to read about Islam. We have several articles, just for him, in our website, Islam for the West.