Pope Benedict XVI, saying he no longer has the strength to lead the world’s 1 billion Catholics, will resign from the papal office at the end of the month, becoming the first pontiff to resign in almost 600 years.
“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,” he said today in an address that not only surprised senior church officials in Rome but shocked the entire world. Click here to read the entire statement.
The eighty-five-year-old Pope Benedict, the 265th leader of the Roman Catholic Church, said his resignation would take effect at 8 p.m. on Feb. 28. He will step down two months before his 86th birthday after serving for almost eight years as pontiff after succeeding John Paul II.
According to the Washington Post, the resignation of Benedict may reopen rifts within the Church as pressure builds to name a pope from the developing world where Catholicism is growing and offsetting declines in Europe and the U.S. The new pope will be chosen through a conclave, a special gathering of cardinals who are sequestered in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican until they can agree on a successor.
With the resignation of Pope Benedict, speculation also increases as to who the next pope will be in light of those who raise the question: "Is the pope, or the next pope, the Antichrist?"
Many continue to speculate about the identity of the Antichrist, a dominant religious figure rising to prominence during the last days. Verses relating to the term “antichrist” indicate that many antichrists or false teachers will appear between the time of Christ's first and Second Coming, but there will be one great Antichrist who will rise to power during the end times, or "last hour." He will deny that Jesus is the Christ and will deny both God the Father and God the Son. Known as “the man of sin” and “the son of perdition or lawlessness” he will lie and a deceive many.
During the Protestant Reformation, some of the writings of Luther and other Protestant commentators attempt to make a connection between the Pope and the Antichrist. References in the Book of Revelation speak of an evil global system connected symbolically with a woman described as “seated on seven hills,” all of which some writers indicate possible connections with the Roman Catholic Church and its leader, the Pope.
The announcement of Pope Benedict’s pending resignation is certain to fuel the controversy and generate even more speculation regarding the arrival of the Antichrist in the coming days which many see as confirmation that we are, without question, living in the end times.
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