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.