Pope Benedict stunned the world today by saying he no longer had the mental and physical strength to handle his ministry. When Benedict was elected pope at age 78 — he was the oldest in 300 years. With this announcement, Ratzinger becomes the first pope to step down since the Middle Ages. Formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the 85 year old is controversial to say the least, hailed as a hero by conservative Catholics. Ratzinger was a former member of the Hitler Youth in Germany, and caused an uproar in the Muslim world when he quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor as saying Islam had only brought evil to the world and that it was spread by the sword.
In a statement, Ratzinger said,
“…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.”
Ratzinger’s reign has been tarnished by scandal, including the systematic rape and torture of children and subsequent coverup. The pope’s butler was also revealed to be the source of leaked documents exposing corruption (surprise) in the Vatican.
The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415.
Stay tuned for more updates.