Archive of February 11, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI announces his retirement

Vatican City, Feb 11, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI announced today that he will resign from his duties as Pope on February 28th, 2013.

The full text of the Pope's announcement follows. Please revist this page for more details. A press conference will be held in minutes at the Vatican press office.

Dear Brothers,
I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. 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. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, 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, 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. 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.
Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.
From the Vatican, 11 February 2013



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Pope cites waning strength as reason for resignation

Vatican City, Feb 11, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI told a gathering of cardinals Feb. 11 that he no longer has the strength to carry out ministry and will resign on Feb. 28.

“I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church.

“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,” Pope Benedict said.

He made his remarks in Latin to a meeting of cardinals who were gathered to vote on whether or not to canonize three people.

The last pontiff to resign was Gregory XII, who left office almost 600 years ago in 1415.

At a quickly arranged Feb. 11 press conference, Father Federico Lombardi told the media that there is no sickness the Pope is suffering from that is behind this decision.

 “It’s something that happens normally in people with advanced age, “ the Vatican spokesman said.

Pope Benedict observed his lack of strength “over the past few months and courageously came to this decision,” the spokesman said.

He also stressed that Pope Benedict made the decision after carefully examining his conscience and the responsibilities of his office.

“This is an absolutely personal decision made with his conscience before God,” he remarked.

One member of the press commented on the contrast between Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul II, who suffered with Parkinson’s disease until he passed away on April 2005.

Fr. Lombardi said Benedict XVI respects the decision of his predecessor and that with his suffering he offered a great testimony to the Church.

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Pope's resignation invokes sadness, gratitude from US bishops

Washington D.C., Feb 11, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. bishops voiced sorrow over the news of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, as well as appreciation for his eight years of leadership and service to the Church.

“The Holy Father brought the tender heart of a pastor, the incisive mind of a scholar and the confidence of a soul united with His God in all he did,” said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “His resignation is but another sign of his great care for the Church.”

Cardinal Dolan’s Feb. 11 statement came hours after Pope Benedict announced his decision to resign from his papal duties, effective Feb. 28.

The Holy Father cited concerns of advancing age and declining strength, saying that for these reasons, he is unable to “adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”

Cardinal Dolan reflected on the Pope Benedict’s service to the Church, commending the Holy Father for his work to proclaim the Gospel in all that he did.

“Pope Benedict often cited the significance of eternal truths and he warned of a dictatorship of relativism,” he said. “Some values, such as human life, stand out above all others, he taught again and again. It is a message for eternity.”

“He unified Catholics and reached out to schismatic groups in hopes of drawing them back to the church,” the cardinal continued. “More unites us than divides us, he said by word and deed. That message is for eternity.”

Recalling Pope Benedict’s visit to the United States in 2008, Cardinal Dolan reflected on his work as a pastor, statesman and spiritual leader.

“He spoke for the world’s poor when he visited them and wrote of equality among nations in his peace messages and encyclicals,” the cardinal added. “He pleaded for a more equitable share of world resources and for a respect for God’s creation in nature.”

He also noted that despite the pontiff’s advanced age when he was elected in 2005, “he set out to meet his people – and they were of all faiths – all over the world.”

He referenced Pope Benedict’s particular care for those facing persecution, poverty and pain, noting the Pope’s visits to the Middle East, and Africa as well as the Pope’s private meetings with victims of clerical abuse.

In addition, he recalled the Holy Father’s meetings with young people at World Youth Day gatherings in Australia, Germany and Spain.

Cardinal Dolan said that Pope Benedict’s words, actions and writings “moved and changed” people, urging them “to know and have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.”

Calling the resignation “an important moment in our lives as citizens of the world,” he concluded by reiterating his gratitude and calling for hope-filled prayers “that the College of Cardinals under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit choose a worthy successor to meet the challenges present in today’s world.”

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Benedict XVI plans life of prayer after retirement

Vatican City, Feb 11, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - After Pope Benedict XVI retires at the end of February he will dedicate himself to a life of prayer and study in a Vatican-based monastery.

The Pope, who announced today he will step down on Feb. 28, will first stay in Castel Gandolfo before eventually going back to the Vatican to live in Mater Ecclesiae monastery.

The monastery is currently being renovated, but it is normally inhabited by a group of nuns who pray for the ministry of the Pope, a mission Pope John Paul II gave to them.

"He will be dedicating himself to prayer and reflection," said Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, during an unexpected Feb. 11 media event at the Holy See press office.

"The Pope will not be cloistered nor should he be considered confined in any way, and he will have his freedom," said Fr. Lombardi.

"Certainly this is a new situation and we will see how he lives it," he added.

Some fear having two Popes alive will cause problems, but Fr. Lombardi dismissed those suggestions.

"I wouldn't have any fear about this because there's a knowledge of Pope Benedict XVI as being discrete, and there would not be any interference with his successor," said Fr. Lombardi.

"This would be completely against his personality," he noted.

On the matter of how the Pope came to his decision, the Vatican spokesman said it was “not a rash decision; he is not depressed or overwhelmed by his pontificate.”

Canon law states a meeting to choose the next Pope, a “conclave,” must be held within a maximum of 20 days after his seat is vacant.

This could mean the Church will have no head during most of Lent, but the Vatican hopes to have one by Easter.

This is the first time since Gregory XII relinquished his office in 1415 that a Pope has resigned.

Pope Benedict will still hold his title of cardinal that he had before he was elected Pope.

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Papal resignation is rare historical event

Vatican City, Feb 11, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Feb. 11, Pope Benedict made it public that he will step down from his role as head of the Catholic Church, raising a number of questions about how the process of resignation works.

Only two other Pope’s have resigned their post in the history of the Church, with the last one being Gregory VII, in 1415.

But in retrospect the idea was perhaps not so distant from the mind of Benedict XVI.

The first clear hint of such a move being on the mind of Pope Benedict came in his 2010 interview with the German journalist Peter Seewald.

That series of questions from Seewald later became the book “Light of the World.”

In that work the Pope responded to a question about whether a pontiff could resign: “Yes. If a Pope clearly realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically, and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right and, under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign.”

The first Pope to resign in the history of the Church was St. Celestine V, who was elected to office in Dec. 1294 after a conclave that lasted two years and three months.

He was known as a holy priest who dedicated himself to a life of prayer as a hermit. However as Pope his administration of the Church was poor and the Roman Curia fell into disarray.

In July 1294 he resigned from his office, becoming the first Successor of Peter to do so. After his resignation, St. Celestine returned to a life of prayer, despite being imprisoned by his successor.

The current Code of Canon Law, the regulations that govern the life of the Church, now makes it possible for a Pope to leave his office.

Canon 332, Paragraph 2 says: “Should it happen that the Roman Pontiff resigns from his office, it is to be required for validity that the resignation be freely made and properly manifested, but it is not necessary that it be accepted by anyone.”

Father Federico Lombardi told journalists at a Feb. 11 Vatican press conference that he himself was not shocked by the news, especially once he recalled the Pope’s response in “Light of the World.”

At that point, Fr. Lombardi said he knew the Pope was fully aware he had the right to resign.

Pope Benedict will officially retire on Feb. 28, 2013 at 8:00 p.m., at which point the seat of Peter will be considered vacant.

He will then travel to the papal summer retreat in Castel Gandolfo, which is about 15 miles southeast of Rome.

Once renovations are complete on Mater Ecclesia monastery inside the Vatican, the former pontiff will move there for a period of prayer and rest.

The preparations for the Conclave of Cardinals to elect a new Pope will begin as soon as Benedict XVI retires on Feb. 28.

During a conclave, all the cardinals below the age of 80 come to Rome to pray, consider and vote for who the next Pope will be, all behind closed doors.

Fr. Lombardi expects that there will be a new Pope by Easter.

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'Your pontificate will shine like a star,' head cardinal tells Pope

Vatican City, Feb 11, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals, told Pope Benedict XVI that his pontificate will always shine like a star as he reacted to the news of Pope’s resignation.

"The stars in the sky will continue to shine and your pontificate will always shine like them among us," said Cardinal Angelo Sodano, just after the Pope read his declaration of resignation on Feb. 11.

"We have heard you with a sense of astonishment, almost in disbelief," Cardinal Sodano said in front of a group of cardinals gathered at the Vatican to decide on three canonization proposals.

"In your words, we have noticed the big affection that you have always had towards God's Holy Church, for this Church that you have always loved," he added.

The cardinal told Pope Benedict that "in the name of your dear collaborators, we are closer, more than ever, just as we have been in these bright eight years of your pontificate."

Cardinal Sodano recalled the moment when he asked the Pope if he accepted his election as Supreme Pontiff on April 19, 2005.

"You did not delay in replying that you accepted, trusting in God's grace and in the motherly intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church," he said.

"Like Mary, you gave your yes on that day and began your bright pontificate in the continuity of your 265 predecessors on Peter's Chair, during the course of 2,000 years of history."

He noted this was "from Peter, the Apostle, the humble fisherman of Galilee to the big Popes of the last century from St. Pius X to Blessed John Paul II."

The cardinal called Pope Benedict's ministry a service "realized with so much love, with so much humility."

The dean of the College of Cardinals said he hopes that the cardinals "will have a better way of expressing our feelings as well as that of priests, pilgrims, men of good will and authorities from around the world" before his retirement on Feb. 28.

He also said "we will have the joy of listening to your pastoral voice this month" on numerous occasions.

Pope Benedict will speak this Ash Wednesday, on Thursday at a meeting with Rome's clergy, at the recitation of the Angelus each Sunday.

"But your mission will continue: you have said that you will always be close with your testimony and your prayer," the cardinal said.

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American bishops thank Pope for service, love of Church

Denver, Colo., Feb 11, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Numerous American bishops voiced their gratitude to Pope Benedict for his nearly 8 years of service as Bishop of Rome, noting the pontiff's constant desire for the good of the Church.

“Pope Benedict XVI has, in all circumstances, placed the will of God for the good of the Church before every other consideration....he has now shown great courage in deciding, after prayer and soul-searching, to resign his office at the end of this month,” Cardinal Francis George of Chicago wrote.

“He has taught with clarity and charity what God has revealed to the world in Christ; he has handed on the apostolic faith; he has loved all of God’s people with all his heart.”

At 12:30 p.m. in Rome on Feb. 11, Pope Benedict XVI announced to a gathering of cardinals that he no longer has the strength to carry out the office of the Papacy and will resign on Feb. 28. He is 85 years of age.

“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 declared.

Cardinal George, who will vote in the conclave to elect the Pope's successor continued, saying that “with the gratitude of sons and daughters in our hearts, we ask the Lord to bless him and give him strength, as we begin to pray now for the one who will succeed him as Bishop of Rome, Successor of Peter and Vicar of Christ.”

Cardinal Dolan of New York, who was appointed to the College of Cardinals by Pope Benedict, similarly accepted the announcement.

“The Holy Father brought the tender heart of a pastor, the incisive mind of a scholar and the confidence of a soul united with His God in all he did. His resignation is but another sign of his great care for the Church. We are sad that he will be resigning but grateful for his eight years of selfless leadership as successor of St. Peter.”

Cardinal Dolan recounted the worldwide trips made by the Pope, who was elected to the See of Rome at age 78.

Pope Benedict has taught us eternal truths, Cardinal Dolan said, such as the value of human life and the strength of what unites Catholics in the Church.

Cardinal Dolan went on to cite the Pope's concern for “schismatic groups” as well as the poor of the world.

“In all he said and did he urged people everywhere to know and have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.”

Archbishop José Gomez, head of the Los Angeles archdiocese, said Pope Benedict has “truly been a Holy Father to the family of God.”

“His decision to resign 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.”

Archbishop Gomez noted his personal affection for and gratitude to Pope Benedict, saying he tries “to learn every day from his words and example.” He exhorted everyone to entrust him to “our Blessed Mother Mary” and to “pray that he will continue to have joy and peace and many more years for prayer and reflection.”

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia noted the Pope's “intelligence, eloquence and extraordinary self-sacrifice.”

The decision to resign, Archbishop Chaput said, “is another sign of his placing the needs of the Church above his own.”

Archbishop Samuel Aquila of the Denver Archdiocese, asked that all people of good will join him in “lifting their hearts in gratitude to the Father” for Pope Benedict's ministry.

Pope Benedict, he said, “has faithfully served the Church throughout his life in diverse ways, always obedient to Christ and seeking the will of the Father. The witness of his life and work has borne incredible fruit and will continue to do so in his retirement.”

Bishop Robert Deeley, an auxiliary of the Archdiocese of Boston, offered his “personal gratitude” to Pope Benedict “for the experience of working closely with him during my time in Rome with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”

Bishop Deeley continued, saying, “I know of his deep and abiding love for the Church.”

“We assure the Holy Father of our prayers and fidelity during these final weeks of his service as the Vicar of Christ.”

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Youth gather to pray for Pope, recall his loving guidance

Vatican City, Feb 11, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A group of young adults at the Vatican called Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to resign “humble” and “brave,” adding that they are “impressed by the strength of his choice.”

“I have a lot of respect for his choice,” said one member of the Vatican’s youth group “San Lorenzo,” which gathered to pray the rosary in St. Peter’s Square for the Holy Father.

“We actually do this every day,” said Cecile Delattre, a native of Paris. She explained that the group has responded to the pontiff’s call for Catholics to pray a daily rosary during the Year of Faith.

“But today we prayed it more specifically for the Pope,” she explained.

On Feb. 11, Pope Benedict announced that he would retire from his position on Feb. 28, due to his advanced age and declining strength.

Pointing to Blessed John Paul II’s description of the cross as a “symbol of hope,” Delattre emphasized that “we have nothing to fear because the Holy Spirit is guiding the whole thing.”

At first, she said that she could not believe the news of the resignation, which came as a total surprise. But at the same time, she knew the decision was made “in truth with the Lord and in peace.”

Throughout his pontificate, Delattre said, the Holy Father has addressed “subjects that spoke directly to young people” in a way that was “very brave and bold.”

She speculated that the Pope “must have suffered” from those that did not understand him, but she added that many young people gave the pontiff their full support.

“I saw it during this last World Youth Day when thousands knelt with him before the Blessed Sacrament,” she explained. “I felt they acknowledged that he was guiding us closer to Christ.”

“We will remember him as someone really humble and really attached to everyone,” she said.

Also with the San Lorenzo group to pray the rosary was a first-year theology student from the North American College in Rome.

“My first response, like that of everybody else, I’m sure, was of shock and surprise,” said Luke Doyle, noting that this is the first papal resignation in six centuries.

“But after that, I felt profound gratitude for the gift that the Church has been given in the Holy Father,” he continued.

“He’s a great man and a tremendous leader for the Church, for others, and what a great gift to have had him and his mind to lead the Church,” he reflected.

Another theology student described the mixed emptions of “sadness, but at the same time excitement.”

“This happened 600 years ago, and we don’t know exactly what happened then,” said Sean Grismer of the North American College, who voiced enthusiasm over “the mystery of what is to happen now.”

“I think one of the greatest things is the great humility he has exemplified throughout his entire Papacy,” he said.

Grismer recalled seeing Pope Benedict up close during Australia’s World Youth Day in 2008.

“There was this sense of wonder and awe of this man who had taken on the responsibility of the entire Catholic Church and the entire world, and it was such a moving experience,” he said.

“Then to be sent to Rome to study here and to be just in the shade of St. Peter’s dome, to come to his Sunday Angelus and his Wednesday audiences has allowed me to see the profound humility he has,” the student explained.

According to Grismer, the resignation is “nothing more than what he has already exemplified, saying he is not able to continue on as Pope, but your spiritual father if not your Holy Father.”

“It has been a great blessing to be here and be part of his legacy to see him grow and continue to love us in this different way,” he continued.

“He is a father and a teacher,” the seminarian reflected, “and even though we may not understand fully now what this means, he is teaching us something great, not just about himself, but about the papacy.”

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Politicians react to Pope's retirement with surprise, thanksgiving

Washington D.C., Feb 11, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Political leaders in the United States offered their prayers and respect upon learning of Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to retire at the end of the month. 

“On behalf of Americans everywhere,” said U.S. President Barack Obama in a Feb. 11 statement, “Michelle and I wish to extend our appreciation and prayers to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.”

“Michelle and I warmly remember our meeting with the Holy Father in 2009, and I have appreciated our work together over these last four years,” the president said.

“The Church plays a critical role in the United States and the world,” he added, “and I wish the best to those who will soon gather to choose His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI’s successor.”

Pope Benedict announced his decision to retire on the morning of Feb. 11 in Rome. In an address in Latin to a group of Cardinals, the Pope stated that he would relinquish his role on Feb. 28 due to his declining strength and advancing age. He will be the first Pope to resign from his position in nearly 600 years.

Vice President Joe Biden, who is Catholic, voiced admiration for the Holy Father on Twitter, calling him “a man of great integrity” who is “looking out for what he believes is the best interest of our church.”

Secretary of State John Kerry, who is also Catholic, described the Pope as “a man of action and principle, working to promote human rights and dignity in places around the globe where they are too often denied.”

“We wish Pope Benedict great peace and health and we will keep him in our prayers,” he said.

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) also offered “prayers and gratitude.”

“The Holy Father's decision displays extraordinary humility and love for the Church, two things that have been the hallmarks of his service,” Boehner said in a statement.

“Americans were inspired by his visit to the United States in 2008, and by his quiet, steady leadership of the Church in uncertain times,” he continued. “People of all nations have been blessed by the sacrifices he has made to sow the seeds of hope, justice, and compassion throughout the world in the name of Our Lord and Savior.”

Other Catholic lawmakers released similar statements. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) praised the Pope’s decision, saying that it “displayed the qualities of an excellent leader and a true man of God.”

“I wish him well in the future,” Rubio said, “and, as a Catholic, I thank him for his service to God and the Church.”

“I also look with optimism toward the future of the Catholic Church as it prepares to welcome a new leader and as it continues to spread God’s message of faith, hope and love to all the corners of the world,” he added.

Congressman and former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) echoed the surprise and prayers of his colleagues, while stating that the Holy Father’s decision is “another sign of his humility and good sense.”

Ryan recounted the Pope’s defense of human life and dignity, advocacy for “the poor, the powerless, the unborn, the sick, and the elderly,” and work towards peace and interreligious cooperation.

He also pointed to Pope Benedict’s “brilliant intellect,” referring to the Holy Father’s books, homilies and writings as “new treasures of the Church.”

“His pontificate has been a blessing to the world,” Ryan said.

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Lay Catholics voice gratitude for 'inspired' Pope

Washington D.C., Feb 11, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Prominent lay Catholics reacted with surprise and sorrow to Pope Benedict XVI's announcement that he will resign the papacy, but they praised his Christian life and service to the Catholic Church.

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus underscored Catholics' thoughts and prayers are with Pope Benedict in his remaining days in office.

“We wish him all the best in his retirement,” Anderson said. “In addition, we pray for all those cardinals who will take part in the conclave, and for his successor, that God may inspire them as they carry out the mission with which they are entrusted.”

On Feb. 11, Pope Benedict announced that he would resign from his duties on Feb. 28, citing “advanced age” and deteriorating strength. The consistory of cardinals he had convoked will serve as a papal conclave.

Anderson said the Pope “worked so hard in leading the Church” and has always been “such a good friend” to the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal charitable order with over 1.8 million members worldwide.

John Garvey, President of The Catholic University of America, said the Washington, D.C. university is “surprised and saddened.” He called the Pope “a faithful, charitable and inspired leader of the Church” and “a lover of Jesus Christ.”

“He has been a public figure of considerable importance, reminding the world of the inviolable dignity of the human person, and the call of the Gospel to charity.”

Garvey said the Pope helped deepen Catholics' understanding of Catholic education and the role of the Catholic educator. He said the university will particularly treasure his April 17, 2008 visit to the campus.

“We will continue to reflect with gratitude on his papacy which has been a gift to The Catholic University of America, to the church, and to the world,” Garvey added.

Maureen Ferguson, a senior policy advisor with the D.C.-based group The Catholic Association, reflected that the Pope is stepping down “out of love for the Church and her needs.”

“Pope Benedict XVI will be remembered as a profound theologian who encouraged a love for the person of Jesus Christ, and as a reformer who confronted scandal head on and has left the Church with the strongest child protection policies of any institution in the United States,” she said.

Ashley McGuire, a senior fellow with The Catholic Association, voiced gratitude for Pope Benedict’s leadership and his “profound commitment to Christ and the Church.” She said the resignation is “an act of great humility.”

“Benedict XVI will be remembered as a profound theologian who strengthened Christianity worldwide especially in the West, and as a great reformer who appointed faithful and courageous shepherds who will continue his legacy.”

Charles Coulombe, a Catholic historian and writer from Los Angeles, told CNA he was “very unhappy” about the resignation.

“I think he’s been the best Pope in my lifetime. And I think that there’s a great loss to us all on levels,” he said Feb. 11. “On the other hand, looking at what he faces, I can understand why he did it.”

He noted the stresses of overseeing ordinary life of the Church, as in the “very strenuous” upcoming Holy Week celebrations. On the political front, there are looming clashes with the U.S., French and Irish governments over religious freedom, the redefinition of marriage and abortion. The Holy See also continues to seek peace amid turmoil in the Middle East.

Coulombe said news of the resignation for him felt like “a kick in the head.”

“But as the hours have gone by, and I let myself think about it, I have to believe he knows what he’s doing.” He said Pope Benedict had “a very ambitious program for the Church,” especially in working towards Church unity.

The historian reflected on how the pontiff “faced a great deal of opposition within the ranks” on some initiatives, like the apostolic letter “Summorum Pontificum” that allowed wider celebration of the Latin-language Tridentine Mass.

“He opened the door for a lot of really, really good things. And I suspect he’s hoping his successor will have the vigor and the strength to push them through,” Coulombe said.

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Orthodox bishop lauds Pope for building good relations

Moscow, Russia, Feb 11, 2013 (CNA) - A leading bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church said that Pope Benedict's papacy has been the occasion of a “positive dynamic” in relations between the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox.

“He is a prominent theologian, who is well versed in the tradition of the Orthodox Church while having the sensitivity that makes it possible for him to build relations with Orthodox Church on (a) due level,” Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk said Feb. 11.

“Relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church have acquired positive dynamic after his ascension to the See of Rome.”

On Monday, Pope Benedict announced his decision to resign from his papal duties, effective Feb. 28.

The Holy Father cited concerns of advancing age and declining strength, saying that for these reasons, he is unable to “adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”

Metropolitan Hilarion is chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate's department for external church relations. He noted that the office of the Roman Pontiff “presupposes active work” and “is not a ceremonial office.”

“The Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to leave his office in the present situation may be seen as an act of personal courage and humbleness.”

He expressed gratitude for the Pope's “understanding of the problems which impede the full normalization of Orthodox-Catholic relations, especially in such regions as western Ukraine.”

Metropolitan Hilarion said his meetings with Pope Benedict are memorable, and noted the pontiff's thoughtfulness, sensitivity, and “his desire to solve together the problems arising in our relations.”

He praised the Pope's staunch opposition to the “dictatorship of relativism” and said that his “traditionalism and conservatism...are of credit for millions of Christians, both Catholic and non-Catholic, who seek to preserve traditional Christian spiritual and moral values.”

“It remains only to hope that his successor will continue walking along the same path and that Orthodox-Catholic relations will continue developing progressively for the common good of the whole Christendom.”

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