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By Deacon Keith Fournier

2/12/2013 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (

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

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. (Pope Benedict XVI)

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI


By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online (

2/12/2013 (2 years ago)

Published in Europe

Keywords: Pope Benedict XVI, resignation, Papal resignation, Vatican Church history, papal, New Pope, Vicar of Christ, successor of Peter, Joseph Ratzinger, Deacon Keith Fournier

VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - Pope Benedict XVI will resign his office on February 28, 2013. He will be 86 years old on April 16, 2013. Some early observers indicated his age would make him some sort of caretaker Pope. His pontificate has demonstrated the observers were wrong. He has been an indefatigable and tireless missionary of a Pope.

With the humility which has characterized his extraordinary papacy, the announcement was simple and straightforward. It was made to a consistory of his brothers in the episcopate, cardinals who had gathered in Rome where he will soon approve over 800 causes for canonization. He will become the first Pope since 1294 to resign his office in this way. Here is his complete statement:

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 

I must confess - I was not surprised. I had been sensing, in that strange "baptized hunch" way - which is sometimes from the Holy Spirit and sometimes not - that he was not to be with us much longer.  I watched closely for word on his declining health. Like many I have noted his frailty over the last year as he took to using assistance in his mobility. But nothing emerged. Then today came this honest and humble announcement from this Successor of Peter who so appropriately demonstrates that title "Servant of the Servants of God". 

I vividly remember the day in 2005 when the announcement of his own election to the Petrine ministry was made. "Habemus Papem", "We Have a Pope!" the Cardinal announced. Pope Benedict XVI stepped forward onto the balcony overlooking St. Peters Square calling himself "a simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord." The applause was uproarious. The joy filled not only that Square but the hearts of millions throughout the entire world who had prayed for this moment.

He continued ". that the Lord can work and act even with insufficient means consoles me, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers. In the joy of the risen Lord, trusting in his permanent help, we go forward."  Then the questions began. All of them related to one singular question "Where will the Pope lead us?" Morning papers and television commentaries were besieged with alleged answers. They ranged from ecstatic commentary to morose complaint, depending, as if often the case, on the speaker or writers positions on the so called hot button issues that the dominant media culture seems to be obsessed about.

However, like his beloved predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, Benedict XVI was never so obsessed. In fact, he approached the world in an entirely different way. That way is the ever ancient but ever new way of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as lived, loved, proclaimed and taught by the Catholic Church for two millennia. He, like John Paul, could not be fit into the tired labels that so many try to fit him into. He is simply a faithful Catholic Christian.

I was overcome with joy, gratitude and profound hope for the future when I heard the news while I was visiting with a priest friend in Richmond, Virginia. We were immersed in an intense conversation when another friend, then still a Bishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Church, called me on my cell phone to tell me the news. "Have you heard?" he asked, "Habemus Papem, We have a Pope!" he proclaimed, hardly able to contain his own joy. My priest friend and I immediately turned the television on and, with the entire world, witnessed history.

One day later, I realized how significant it was that a Christian from another community told me, a Catholic Deacon, the "we" had a Pope. I believed it was a seed and sign of the movement of the Holy Spirit toward the coming full communion of the whole Christian Church. Now today, while I was still engaged in my morning prayer, that same man informed me of this news of a papal resignation! However, he is a fruit of the ministry of Benedict the Builder Pope. Shortly after the announcement in 2005, my friend resigned his ministry and began the process which led him into full communion with the Catholic Church. He had no assurance of any ordained ministry; he was just drawn by the splendor of truth which is the ancient but ever new Catholic faith and could not resist its pull.

"How very fitting" I thought to myself this morning "that Fr Randy Sly would inform me of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI". He did so while he was on his way to celebrate the Holy Eucharist. Fr Randy Sly was one of the first to be ordained to the holy priesthood for the Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter and now serves as a Catholic priest. As I write, he stands at the altar as fruit of the extraordinary pontificate of Benedict the Builder Pope! 

I believed from the beginning of his papacy that Benedict XVI would be a builder. He is one of the most brilliant, insightful and fecund theologians of the age. He knew the need for a New Evangelization and he understood the challenges that the Church faced as she walked forward to the Third Christian Millennium. He was present at and participated in the Second Vatican Council. He understands the authentic teaching of that Council and has led the way in its proper implementation in many areas of life, both within the Church and in her mission to the modern world.

He also understands the way that the Council was hijacked in some circles, disregarded in others and absolutely misinterpreted in still others. He has been a voice for dynamic orthodox and faithful Catholic Christian faith, practice, worship and life. In his homily prior to the convening of the conclave where he was chosen to fill the Chair of Peter, then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger gave a prophetic insight: "How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking... The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves - thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so forth.

"Every day new sects are created and what Saint Paul says about human trickery comes true, with cunning which tries to draw those into error (cf Eph 4, 14). Having a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. "Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and "swept along by every wind of teaching," looks like the only attitude (acceptable) to today's standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires."

Some attempted to misuse this insight to paint him as rejecting the modern world. That was nonsense. What he rejects is the emptiness of modernity and what he aptly referred to as the dictatorship of relativism. What he proposes is a different path, not to the past, but to a future of hope and authentic freedom. It is the reassertion of saving and liberating truth that paves that path to authentic human flourishing and freedom. It is to be found in Jesus Christ who proclaimed that He is the "Way, the Truth and the Life." Jesus reminds every person in every age, that we can "know the truth" and that "the truth will set you free." Benedict has been his mouthpiece and Vicar.

His choice of the name Benedict was a sign of his pontificate. One of the young priests who commented on his election noted that then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger visited Subiaco before all the events in Rome began. He prayed and rededicated himself to the work of the Church for the future. Benedict the great monk helped to rebuild the Church of his age and spread the influence of Christendom. Pope Benedict XVI has laid the seeds for a similar work in the Third Millennium.

I remember that first homily: "Dear Ones, this intimate recognition for a gift of divine mercy prevails in my heart in spite of everything. I consider this a grace obtained for me by my venerated predecessor, John Paul II. It seems I can feel his strong hand squeezing mine; I seem to see his smiling eyes and listen to his words, addressed to me especially at this moment: 'Do not be afraid!'

He emphasized the work of authentic ecumenism proclaiming: "Thus, in full awareness and at the beginning of his ministry in the Church of Rome that Peter bathed with his blood, the current Successor assumes as his primary commitment that of working tirelessly towards the reconstitution of the full and visible unity of all Christ's followers. This is his ambition, this is his compelling duty."

Pope Benedict XVI has been anything but a caretaker. He has been a rebuilder of foundations. I believe he will go down in history as one of the great popes. He continued the pastoral visits of his predecessor with amazingly fruitful travels around the world. The youth of the world flocked to World Youth days and his genuine love for them - and they for him - was evident. He pastorally and decisively dealt with serious matters concerning the need for a purification of the Church. 

He has been exactly what he told us he was when he began his service, a "simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord" Notice how little fanfare accompanied his historic resignation! Clearly, to this successor of Peter, it is simply not about him, but about the Lord whom he serves. His diminutive size and humble manner reveal the holy heart of this man totally given over to the Lord. He is so refreshingly counter cultural in this age of narcissism and self love.

He is a scholar of the highest order, yet has been able to communicate with simplicity and beauty because he is a man of deep prayer. He has given continual teaching to the faithful - including some of the finest hagiography in centuries - during his Wednesday Catecheses. He made Church history, when Motu Propio, he released of the Apostolic Constitution on Groups of Anglicans which has begun the healing of the divided Western Church. The fruits of these Ordinariates will be recounted by future historians as among the most important events in the Third Millennium of the Church.

He earned the great respect of Patriarchs and leaders of the Orthodox Church and made progress toward some form of communion between Eastern and Western Christianity which could make the Third Millennium a millennium of communion. He championed the re-christianizing of Europe and passionately promoted the New Evangelization of the Church - even establishing a new Pontifical Council on the New Evangelization. He has been a champion of the New Ecclesial movements and helped to ensure that they are rooted in the heart of the Church and received as gift for the missionary work of the Church in this hour.

He has doggedly defended the Christian roots of the West and defended religious freedom as a fundamental human right. He has engaged the Islamic world with great charity and courage on the ground of dialogue in truth. He began the Courts of the Gentiles outreach engaging atheists and agnostics. 

The Church has been truly blessed to have Pope Benedict XVI at the helm of the Bark of Peter as she sails into the Third Christian Millennium. I am sure that as the news of this historic resignation sinks in I will return to write and reflect, along with many others. For now, I ask all of our readers to pray for Pope Benedict XVI and for the Church which he has led with such beauty, simplicity, depth and grace. But even more importantly, I ask you to pray for His Successor.

How desperately the Church, and the world into which she is sent, needs another Champion at the helm. I know that the Lord will hear these prayers because, after all, this is His Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against her. (Matt. 16:18) And, Benedict the Builder Pope secured the Firm Foundations so that the work of Jesus Christ may continue through His Mystical Body on earth.


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