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Final days of Papacy

Photo by: Nick Conley


Surprising the 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide, Pope Benedict XVI announced last week his decision to resign, making him the first pope to quit in almost 600 years. 

Due to step down by Feb. 28, Pope Benedict XVI, born Joseph Ratzinger, plans to retire to a restful life of prayer in the Vatican.

The 85-year-old Pope Benedict said in his resignation announcement that he cannot sufficiently fulfill the ministry entrusted to him because of his deteriorating strength. 

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 in his announcement. 

Benedict will be the first to resign since Pope Gregory XII in 1415. 

“I’ve decided to resign the ministry given to me by the Lord,” Pope Benedict XVI said to those gathered in a Vatican City audience hall for a regular weekly appearance, according to a CNN article. “I’ve done this in full freedom, for the benefit of the church.” 

Sophomore Brian Eads, a Catholic Oklahoma Christian University student, said he could understand why Pope Benedict would want to step down. 

“That position can take a lot out of you,” Eads said. “I think it’s weird that it hasn’t been done in 600 years, but I don’t blame him.” 

Based on the Canon Law, popes have the right to resign if they are of sound mind and if the resignation is made freely. 

“If a pope wants to step down, there’s no one who can say ‘you can’t do that,’” Eads said. “It is a very stressful and straining job.” 

Sophomore Michael Lovell said a pope resigning is different. 

“It’s not necessarily earth-shattering in a sense because the system allows for it,” Lovell said. “So it’s ok, but it’s unexpected.” 

In a piece on papal transition, the National Catholic Weekly said most modern popes have felt resignation is unacceptable due to the risk of encouraging factions in the church to pressure popes to resign for reasons other than health. 

Sophomore Christelle Kwizera said she is happy for Benedict to step down. 

“He’s not physically well,” Kwizera said of Pope Benedict. “The sad part is to know that he’s not doing ok. He looks at peace with what he’s doing. It’s actually one of the few papacies that are ending peacefully, nothing tragic.” 

A new pope is anticipated to be named by Easter. The conclave, a meeting of the College of Cardinals, will meet in March to elect the pope. 

Kwizera wants the next pope to be traditionally natured and hold the position longer. 

“I think we need someone who is young and who is going to be in office for a long, long time to keep things stable,” Kwizera said. “I think the vote will actually go to someone who no one expects.” 

Lovell said he thinks an older pope is better. 

“With that much responsibility, you need wisdom more than power,” Lovell said. “He’s not leading armies or a nation in a sense – he’s leading a group of faith. So that requires more spirituality and wisdom than it requires youthfulness and strength.” 

The pope also needs good managing skills. 

“He needs to be good at connecting with people,” Lovell said. “[He needs to be] able to manage the massive organization that is the Catholic Church and also its relations with all the other organizations across the globe.” 

The beginning date of the conclave is still undecided, but it must begin within 20 days of Pope Benedict’s resignation. 

Eads said the next pope is going to be similar to the last. 

“Benedict XVI has been one of the most conservative popes we had,” Eads said. “So I think that’s sort of what they’re looking for – someone who is very conservative, someone who holds a lot of the same beliefs that Pope Benedict did.” 

Lovell said he trusts the electoral system for choosing a new pope. 

“The way it works is that all the cardinals go and seclude themselves,” Lovell said of the process. “They think about it and pray about it separately, and then they each come to their own decision.” 

This system has been in place for some time. 

“I think it’s a wise system, but like any system humans would come up with – it does have flaws,” Lovell said. “I honestly can’t think of a way it could be better. It’s what we got.” 

Who the conclave choses can be a surprise, Kwizera said. 

“You have 117 cardinals from all over the world who have 40 years of experience in the church,” Kwizera said. “It won’t be tilted in one way or another. There are many different opinions. You still don’t know what is going to happen when they’re in the conclave.” 

Eads thinks the conclave will choose wisely. 

“They choose someone who is a bishop or a cardinal, who has done great things and who they think would do an awesome job leading,” Eads said. “I’m sure they’ll pick someone who they feel will do the best job in the position.” 

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