Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Benedict XVI had reflected on the possibility of resigning, a "courageous decision and a sign of great spiritual freedom" for a long time. Already three years ago, in his book-length interview "Light of the World" he had said:'' If a Pope clearly realizes that he is no longer, physically, psychologically or spiritually able to discharge the duties of his office, then he has a right and, under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign. "
As for Benedict XVI, who will
retire after 28 February to a "cottage" in the Vatican gardens, a building
that once was a monastery of cloistered nuns.
From that moment procedures for the papal election will begin according to the 1996 Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis, and, in all likelihood, by March there will be a successor to Benedict XVI.
In a way, though not from the
legal point of view, there will be two popes, but Father Federico Lombardi,
director of the Press Office of the Holy See, excludes "the idea that
there will be any possible interference or intervention that might embarrass his
successor, "given "the discretion and measured nature" of Benedict
The "very personal" decision was announced today by the Pope, Father Lombardi, to a crowded press briefing room, who underlined "the great courage, great freedom of spirit" and the announcement made during a consistory, with cardinals, and on the eve of Lent.
As for the reasons, "there is no ongoing illness that has prompted this decision." The Pope himself "with courage and clarity" refers to his declining strength of both body and spirit, in recent months. "In reading these sentences," Pope was very inclusive "," concentrated ", he read the text with "great dignity." "a little more tired and with greater fatigue than in the past - says Father Lombardi - perhaps we too had noticed this". The Pope's decision, he said, expresses an "awareness of the great problems of the world today and the opportunity that they can be addressed with new strength". He excluded "depression or discouragement".
For wwhatever reason, Benedict XVI's resignation, even if according to the Code of Canon Law was a bolt from the blue, as well as having historical precedents, it is a event provided for in the Code of Canon Law # 332, 2 which states: " Should it happen that the Roman Pontiff resigns from his office, it is required for validity that the resignation be freely made and properly manifested, but it is not necessary that it be accepted by anyone.".
With regard to the above, if most are citing the case of Celestine V, Dante's Pope of "the great refusal" who in 1294, four months after his election, renounced the papacy, it seems that in times of persecution Pope Clement also resigned, who was sentenced to exile in 97 and was concerned about the lack of leadership of the Christian people. The case of Pope Pontian is similar, who resigned in exile in Sardinia in 235 for the same reasons.
In the turbulent period of the Investiture Controversy, there was the case of Benedict IX, deposed in 1045 and replaced by Sylvester III, then restored to office, which he handed to Gregory VI. In 1415 Gregory XII resigned, disappointed by the failure of his attempt to end the division between Rome and Avignon.
In our times, the possibility of resigning was considered by Pius XII who, concerned about the possibility of being caught by the Nazis, had prepared a letter of resignation. Pope John Paul II had prepared a letter for the event that he lost his mental abilities. Not, as has happened, for physical problems. Moreover, in 1994, while he was at the Gemelli Hospital for a fractured femur he said to the doctor: "Professor we have no choice, you have to treat me and I have to heal me because there is no place in the Church for a pope emeritus."
His successor thinks otherwise.