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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California
Nation/World

Pope Benedict XVI to Resign

His resignation comes as a shock to millions of Catholics around the world.

Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday that he will be stepping down from his position on February 28.

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Citing his age and diminishing strength as the reason for his resignation, he will be the first pope to step down in nearly 600 years.

“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,” said the pope. “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 saying that, “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.”

Pope Benedict was elected in 2005 after the death of John Paul II. John Paul II served 26 years and was the second longest serving pope in history.

Cardinal Roger Mahony, the former Archbishop of Los Angeles, who will travel to Rome to "thank Pope Benedict XVI in person for his gifted service to the church, and to participate in the conclave to elect His successor," said he looks forward to thanking the pope in person.  Mahony is one of 67 cardinals appointed by Pope Benedict.  There are a total of 118 cardinals responsible for electing the pope's successor.

"Surely one of his great legacies will be a continuing emphasis on the need for all catholics to exercise their role as evagelizers in the world," Mahoney said Monday.

Some found the fact that Mahony would take part in choosing the next pope disturbing due to his recent rebuke for not doing enough to stop the alleged sexual abuse within the Los Angeles Arch Diocese.

"A new pope is only as good as the men who support him," said Joelle Casteix, Western Regional Director for The Survivors Network of Those Abused By Priests, "and we believe that anyone that Cardinal Mahony would elect as pope would be someone who would continue the cover-up of child sexual abuse."

Mahony's successor as Archbishop of L.A., Most Rev. Jose Gomez said Pope Benedict's decision to step down, "is a beautiful, Christ-like act of humility and love for The Church."

"This is the act of a saint, who thinks not about himself but only about the will of God and the good of God's people," said Gomez.  "I have great affection for this pope.  In my opinion, he is one of the wisest persons in our world today.  I try to learn every day from his words and example."

Even the president took the time to reach out to Pope Benedict.

"On behalf of Americans everywhere, Michelle and I wish to extend our appreciation and prayers to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI," President Barack Obama said in a statement Monday morning.

A new pontiff could be in place by Easter Sunday, just under 50 days away.  Ghana’s Cardinal Peter Turkson, Nigeria’s Cardinal Francis Arinze, Canada’s Cardinal Marc Ouellet and Italy’s Angelo Scola have emerged as the leading candidates to succeed Benedict.

The Associated Press has contributed to this report.

COMMENTS

So, the pope is taking an "early retirement!" Good for him. So did I - but for a different reason. As a priest I had to make a moral decision to follow my own conscience. I could no longer "represent" or be an apostle to the bishops because of their horrendous actions. You see, in my Deacon year (9 months prior to ordination) I was raped. I experienced a flashback in the fall of 2001. I struggled to remain in ministry until 2006. I then had to go out on a "medical disability" until I reached retirement age.

The pope's retirement seems almost IMMEDIATE. What I cannot fathom is why so urgent a departure. Holy Thursday is such a "big day" for priests, celebrating the establishment of priesthood as well as the Eucharist. Why would he not celebrate that as pope. And what about the remainder of Holy Week and Easter? Wouldn't it be more symbolic for him to remain until then?

It appears that he is almost "running" from something! Is there another scandal brewing? Is he going to act on the horrendous actions of Mahony, George, Finn et al? Would be nice to see that happen - but I am not holding my breath!

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