For the first time in nearly 600 years a pope of the Catholic Church has resigned and the news has rocked the media because of the historic nature of the announcement. Already, the media is trying to ascertain who will be the next pope, and lead the Roman Catholic Church into the next phase of the 21st Century.
Reuters noted that Benedict XVI "ruled over a slower-paced, more cerebral and less impulsive Vatican." It was also a Vatican that was more conservative and some felt more out of touch with changing times, in favor of a more traditional papacy. Reuters added: "But while conservatives cheered him for trying to reaffirm traditional Catholic identity, his critics accused him of turning back the clock on reforms by nearly half a century and hurting dialogue with Muslims, Jews and other Christians," added the media outlet.
NBC News today reported that The archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, explains the "mixed emotions" he feels about the news that Pope Benedict XVI will resign on February 28, saying he feels a "special bond" with the pope. The last pope to step aside was Gregory XII in 1415, who did so in order to end the Great Western Schism, adds NBC News.
Greg Burke, senior communications adviser to the Holy See, confirmed the pope will step down on February 28 at 8 p.m. local time (2 p.m. ET), leaving the office vacant until a successor is chosen. "Yet, on reflection, I am sure that many will recognize it to be a decision of great courage and characteristic clarity of mind and action," he added.
Born in Bavaria, Germany, in 1927, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became the 265th pope in April 2005, describing himself "a simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord," added NBC News. After appearing uncomfortable in the limelight at the start, he began feeling at home with his new job and showed that he intended to be pope in his way, added the Reuters report. Benedict XVI announced Monday he will step aside as leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics on Feb. 28, saying he no longer has the strength to carry out his duties.
Speaking in Latin, the 85-year-old announced his decision during an address at the "Concistory for the canonization of the martyrs of Otranto," a small event held early in the morning, added NBC News. The decision makes him the first pope to resign since the Middle Ages.
His statement was posted on the Vatican Radio website. Carrying out the duties of being pope required "both strength of mind and body," it said. "After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry," the pope's statement said.
The choice was a "decision of great importance" for the church, the statement added. Contenders to be his successor, according to NBC News, include Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, the archbishop of Vienna, and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Canadian head of the Vatican's office for bishops.
Many Catholics were taken aback by the decision, added the report. "Despite great reverence for his charismatic, globe-trotting predecessor -- whom he put on the fast track to sainthood and whom he beatified in 2011 -- aides said he was determined not to change his quiet manner to imitate John Paul's style," added Reuters.
The first German pope for some 1,000 years and the second non-Italian in a row, he traveled regularly, making about four foreign trips a year, but never managed to draw the oceanic crowds of his predecessor, added Reuters. He was never as popular, and that fact coupled with his age, might have fueled his decision to step down as pope. The next pope will be in charge of the church at a time of great flux, and will be charged with the great responsibility of working with Muslims, Jews, and Christian sects to develop the Roman Catholic Church for a new generation.
Staten Island teachers at Catholic schools, will need to talk about this story in class and come up with an interesting way of discussing Pope Benenedict's short and brief reign as the Catholic Church's leader. How do you define Pope Benedict? He was soft-spoken and traditional and as divergent from the charismatic and well-traveled Pope John Paul II as a mortal person can be. He chose to rule quietly not grandly. The "pope mobile" rarely traveled past The Vatican, and he ruled with a quiet dignity at a time of tremendous change for the Church. He reigned at a time when The Vatican re-wrote its prayers and re-introduced a more traditional approach to the Roman Catholic Church doctrine. Many felt the older Pope Benedict was out of touch with changing times, and his legacy will be one of conservative ideals at a time when many Catholics favored a more liberal interpretation of Roman Catholic doctrine.
My Opinon: I had the rare opportunity to travel to Rome in 2011, where I was able to attend a papal audience. Pope Benedict XV1 seemed dignified and kindly and also a bit more subdued then his charismatic predecessor. He blessed the articles we brought to The Vatican auditorium, and I felt he seemed engaging and warm to the audience. I will never forget the experience of seeing Pope Benedict live and I applaud, what must have been a very difficult decision to step down. He showed a quiet bravery in doing this, giving up the title of pope, a title he worked so hard to obtain. We at www.examiner.com wish him good luck in his retirement and we eagerly await news of his successor, as we continue to report on this developing story.