Bristol Catholics facing the news of Pope's resignation
Bristol's Catholic community is coming to terms with the news of Pope Benedict XVI's unexpected resignation.
The 85-year-old has confirmed he will stand down from the papacy on February 28.
The last time a pope resigned was in 1415.
Pope Benedict announced his decision in Latin, during a meeting of Vatican cardinals.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, June 30 2013
Speaking this morning, Pope Benedict said: "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."
Previously known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the German was a reluctant pontiff. The oldest person to be elected pope in more than 250 years, he was said to have been "looking forward to retirement" when Pope John Paul II died in 2005.
The Right Reverend Declan Lang, Bishop of Clifton, said: "I was very surprised, as everyone else is. I only heard at 11am. My initial thought is total shock."
But Bishop Declan said he does not believe the resignation will unsettle the church.
"It is not uncharacteristic of the man, that after careful reflection and prayer he feels he is no longer able to conduct his ministry as Pope," he said.
"He has decided that for the good of the Church he needs to stand down. If he thinks that's the right decision, we have to respect that decision."
The Pope told the cardinals: "I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only by 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 barque of St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary - strengths which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me."
He added: "With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer."
Pope Benedict XVI is likely to be remembered by history as a conservative leader of the church, having taken a traditional stance on everything from women priests to homosexuality, while urging abstinence instead of blessing the use of contraceptives.
But Bishop Declan also pointed out that Pope Benedict was in many ways the first 21st century pontiff.
“He was for example, the first Pope to connect with people via social media, and had his own Twitter account,” he said.
“The modern world insists upon immediacy and activity, and when you think of it in those terms, perhaps it is unsurprising that the Pope, who is 85, felt he was physically unable to continue with his ministry.”
Precedent for Papal Resignation
The first pope to resign his position was another Benedict - Pope Benedict IX, who agreed to resign in 1045, historians believe he did it for financial gain.
He later returned to the papacy after the death of Pope Clement II in 1047.
The best known example of the resignation of a Pope is that of Pope Celestine V in 1294. After only five months as pope, he issued a solemn decree declaring it permissible for a Pope to resign, and then did so himself. He lived two more years as a hermit and was later canonised. The Papal decree that he issued ended any doubt about the possibility of a valid Papal resignation.
Pope Gregory XII (1406-1415), resigned in order to end the Western Schism, which had reached the point where there were three claimants to the Papal throne, Roman Pope Gregory XII, Avignon Antipope Benedict XIII, and Pisan Antipope John XXIII.