This Boston College alumnus can’t resist reporting Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation today. In an address to a church consistory, the 85-year old pontiff cited health as a primary concern in maintaining office. The resignation is effective February 28 and the timeline for an election of a new pontiff by the College of Cardinals is uncertain.
In a statement given in Latin Monday, the Pope said, “…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.” Translation via Rocco Palmo, editor of Whispers from the Loggia, the excellent news blog of all things Vatican and Church related.
The resignation is almost unprecedented, with the most recent being Pope Gregory XII, who resigned in 1415 midst the Western Schism, the Avignon Papacy and antipopes. Vatican Radio posted an interview with a medieval historian this morning with details on this history. Pope Celestine V resigned in 1294 due to political machinations and earned a reference in Dante’s Inferno.*
Benedict XVI elevated Boston archbishop Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley to the rank of Cardinal-Priest in 2006. Cardinal O’Malley’s blog remains un-updated at the time of the Pope’s announcement.
I recall the emotional excitement on the Boston College campus surrounding Benedict’s election following John Paul II’s death in 2005. It’d be very interesting to monitor the Church in the 21st Century Center at Boston College for perspective from the American church. In the meantime, for more information refer to the above-cited Whispers from the Loggia.
*Correction: an earlier version of this article neglected to mention Gregory XII and reported Celestine V’s resignation was the most recent of its kind.