Pope Benedict XVI Steps Down

Pope Benedict XVI delivers his traditional Easter message to the world from St. Peters Basilica on April 4, 2010, at the Vatican. Credit: Alberto Pizzoli. AFP/Getty Images.

For the first time in 600 years, a pope resigns leaving the Roman Catholic Church without a spiritual leader. Shortly, a group of Catholic Cardinals—so-called “Princes of the Church”—will meet behind closed doors to elect the next person who will wear the sandals of the fisherman.  Until the next pope is elected, the Roman Catholic Church will be in the international spotlight and speculations will continue to flood the media regarding the circumstances surrounding his resignation. 

Unless you have been living inside a rock, you already know that the media link the pope’s resignation to sex, money scandal, and pedophile priests.  The Church is denying these allegations saying that Benedict XVI resigned because he was too tired to comply with his papal duties.

The Vatican has answered some of the outstanding questions about Pope Benedict XVI’s future once he’s retired, saying he’ll be known as “emeritus pope,” and continue to wear a white cassock.

The pope’s title and what he would wear has been a major question ever since Benedict stunned the world and announced he would resign on Thursday. While he will no longer wear his trademark red shoes, Benedict has taken a liking to a pair of hand-crafted brown loafers made for him by artisans in Leon, Mexico, and presented to him during his 2012 visit. He will wear them in retirement.

Being the first time in 600 years the Catholic Church has had to deal with a still-alive, retiring pope, many questions had been raised about how to recognize Benedict, born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger in Germany in 1927, after he stepped down.

On Sunday, Benedict told the crowd gathered at the Vatican to hear his final blessing that God is calling him to dedicate himself “even more to prayer and meditation,” which he will do in a secluded monastery being renovated for him on the grounds behind Vatican City’s ancient walls.

In addition to managing a new group of scandals, the pope is trying in his final days to speed up the selection of his replacement. He changed the rules of the conclave that will elect his successor, allowing cardinals to move up the start date if all of them arrive in Rome before the usual 15-day transition between pontificates.

Benedict signed a legal document, issued Monday, with some line-by-line changes to the 1996 Vatican law governing the election of a new pope. It is one of his last acts as pope before resigning Thursday.

The date of the conclave’s start is important because Holy Week begins March 24, with Easter Sunday March 31. In order to have a new pope in place for the church’s most solemn liturgical period, he would need to be installed by Sunday, March 17—a tight time frame if a conclave were to start March 15.

The process of electing Pope Benedict XVI’s successor to is turning out to be the most complex, and in many ways disputatious, of any in modern history.

As soon as Benedict announced his resignation, the Italian press erupted with tales of scandal, infighting and sexual misconduct supposedly revealed by the Church’s own investigation into the so-called “Vatileaks” scandal.

A report by three cardinals appointed by the pope to look into the theft of documents by his personal butler, and their subsequent publishing by an Italian journalist, was widely reported to have contained information on purported sex scandals inside the Vatican. Lurid tales of a “gay lobby” of homosexual clerics were splashed across newspapers and on TV.  Two influential Italian newspapers, Panorama and La Repubblica, claim that Pope Benedict XVI is resigning rather than face the fallout of a scandal involving gay clergy who are supposedly being blackmailed.

The Vatican press office went on the offensive, deriding what it termed, “a diffusion of news that is often unverified, unverifiable and actually false, with serious damage to people and institutions.”

The report into Vatileaks is said to run to up to 600 pages. It will be kept secret, left for Benedict’s successor to deal with as he sees fit. However, the three cardinals who compiled it—all of whom are over the age of 80 and therefore will not take part in the conclave—may be allowed to answer specific questions about it from cardinals who will be participating.

The sexual abuse scandal prompted calls from some U.S. Catholics for Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles to be excluded from participating in choosing the next pope. The cardinal has said he intends to cast his vote, in spite of the pressure. At least two other U.S. cardinals, as well as one from Ireland and a European cardinal were also cited as being men who should recuse themselves over their handling—or mishandling—of the priests’ abuse of minors.

Then came the news that three priests and a former cleric had accused Cardinal Keith O’Brien of Scotland of inappropriate behavior with them, three decades ago.

O’Brien denied the charges, but said in a statement released Monday that he would not take part in the conclave because he doesn’t “wish media attention in Rome to be focused on me, but rather on Pope Benedict XVI and on his Successor.”

The wrongdoings of the Catholic Church have followed Benedict XVI since he assumed the chair of Peter.  The depth and the scope of the scandal are so large, that Benedict XVI decided to leave the problem to the next pope.  He did not have the energy to fix the problems that affect the Catholic Church.

In Panama the media is tightlipped about the scandal, being this country a Catholic state.  We are all waiting for the white smoke to elevate from the chimney of the Vatican and the official pronouncement confirming that a new pope has been elected.  Habemus Papam.  Good Day.

3 thoughts on “Pope Benedict XVI Steps Down”

  1. My favorite detail here is the brown loafers the Pope will wear! It just tickles me that his clothing is such a question. On the other hand, there are issues of protocol to be sorted out – and no one has faced this situation in 600 years!

  2. Hello Linda:

    What I don’t understand is that in Panama people are saying that the pope was very humble in abdicating from the papacy. I don’t see it that way. He’s actually running away from a colossal scandal in the church and leaving the problem to his successor. There is no humbleness in that.

    “Duty first, self only.”



  3. We may be religious or not, we may agree or disagree with Pope Benedict’s views, but I believe we should admire a decision that places the good of the Catholic Church above his personal prestige.

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