Students at St. Benedict at Auburndale High School and other area Catholic schools prayed this morning for Pope Benedict XVI, who announced that he will retire Feb. 28.
Meanwhile, Catholic leaders reacted with shock and xx to news of the first papal resignation in nearly 600 years.
“The news is a shock to us all,” Bishop J. Terry Steib of the Catholic Diocese of Memphis.
“At this early stage of events, we are not sure what it means for our church. Pope Benedict had indicated earlier that he would retire if he was not able to fulfill his duties, but it still is a shock. Details are yet to come from the Vatican about the retirement and the election of his replacement. The Vatican will announce the date and time for convening of the Conclave of Cardinals to elect our next pope, but no one is in the position to know who the next pope will be.”
Steib visited with Pope Benedict, 85, a year ago this month. During the visit, bishops meet with the pope to report on diocesan affairs. “I’m sorry to hear the news that he’s retiring, because I think he has served the Church well,” Steib said. “In our meetings he was always gracious and kind. He always listened intently to what we as bishops had to say.”
Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, a native Memphian and former Memphis priest, issued this statement:
“Like so many Catholics here and around the world, I received the news of Pope Benedict’s decision to resign with strongly mixed feelings. His decision is clearly a very personal, spiritual one, and it expresses his unfailing care and concern for the Church he has served tirelessly throughout his life . . .
“Having had the opportunity to meet him on several occasions, I have always been struck by his humility and kindness. In these final days of his pontificate, we will pray for his health and offer thanks to God for his extraordinary ministry as Pope. And with Catholics around the world, we will pray to the Holy Spirit for the Cardinals who will soon elect his successor.”
Dr. Mary McDonald, former superintendent of Memphis Catholic Schools, met Pope Benedict when he visited Washington DC is April 2008.
“I sat just a few feet from him as he encouraged us to renew our commitment to Catholic schools, especially in the areas of our cities that lure young people away from the path of truth and freedom,” McDonald recalled. “He said that the Catholic identity of a school is not a question of the number of Catholic students, but a question of conviction to bear witness to the meaning of who we are and what we believe.
“I was inspired when he called Catholic schools an “apostolate of hope”, and that everything must be done to ensure that they are accessible to people of all social and economic strata. He greeted us as he left the meeting, and I laughed when I saw that people much younger than he, had trouble keeping up with his pace. I will miss his steady leadership, but I don’t think he will really ‘retire’. I think he will just continue to serve God in a different way.”
Pope Benedict, 85 was elected on April 19, 2005 by the College of Cardinals to follow Pope John Paul II. Joseph Aloisius Cardinal Ratzinger became the 265th pontiff. Cardinal Ratzinger had served under Pope John Paul II as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a key theological position in the Vatican. When Pope John Paul II died, Cardinal Ratzinger anticipated retiring.
Under the Code of Canon Law, the legal structure of the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, a pope may resign through a simple process. He submits his resignation to the Conclave of Cardinals. Other popes have stepped down due to ill health, to resolve conflict, or to retreat from public life in favor of living a monastic life, the most recent being Gregory XII in 1415.
The following text was delivered by Pope Benedict XVI to the College of Cardinals on February 11, 2013:
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, 10 February 2013