On the Holy Father’s Abdication

ImageDear friends,

By now you have likely heard the news of the Holy Father’s abdication of the papacy effective February 28.  Obviously this is a surprise – though, to be sure, both as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and as Pope, Benedict has indicated that  a Pope could, and in some cases should, abdicate.  We must take the Holy Father at his word that he no longer has the strength to fulfill the Petrine ministry, pray for him in his weakness, and be grateful for his ministry – and especially for the great gift he has given to us Anglicanorum coetibus.
When Joseph Ratzinger was elected, I felt as if a friend of mine – someone I knew personally – had become Pope, because his writings had been so influential on my own formation as a Christian and priest.  I believe that someday the Church will acclaim him as a Saint and Doctor of the Church.
Often over the past two years as I have discussed with people this journey into the Catholic Church through the Ordinariate, I have remarked that we have been blessed to live in “a golden age of Popes.”  So let us be thankful, praying for the Holy Father’s peace in his retirement (which itself can be a fruitful ministry of prayer and holiness) and for his successor in the See of St. Peter.
I suppose I should also say a word of warning about the silly and tendentious things that will be certainly be said about Pope Benedict in the media in the days to come – “claiming to be wise, they became fools” (Rm 1.22).  His ministry has been monumental, and will certainly yield a bountiful harvest of faith for years to come – not least in the Ordinariate.
So be of good courage – “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ!” (Phil 1.6).

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, 10 February 2013