Feb. 11 Photo Brief: Pope Benedict XVI resigns, Pope candidates, prepping for Westminster dog show, European Sauna Marathon

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Pope Benedict XVI resigns top post citing health concerns, a look at potential Pope candidates, prepping for the Westminster dog show, something called the European Sauna Marathon and more in today’s daily brief. | Warning: Photos may depict injury or death.

Pope’s sudden resignation sends shockwaves through Church
Philip Pullella | Reuters
2:02 p.m. EST, February 11, 2013

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Benedict stunned the Roman Catholic Church including his closest advisers on Monday when he announced he would stand down in the first papal abdication in 700 years, saying he no longer had the mental and physical strength to run the Church through a period of major crisis.

Church officials tried to relay a climate of calm confidence in the running of a 2,000-year-old institution but the decision could lead to one of the most uncertain and unstable periods in centuries for a Church besieged by scandal and defections.

Several popes in the past, including Benedict’s predecessor John Paul, refrained from stepping down even when severely ill, precisely because of the confusion and division that could be caused by having an “ex-pope” and a reigning pope living at the same time.

This could create a particularly difficult problem if the next pope is a progressive who influences such teachings as the ban on women priests and artificial birth control and its insistence on a celibate priesthood.

The Church has been rocked during Benedict’s nearly eight-year papacy by child sexual abuse crises and Muslim anger after the pope compared Islam to violence. Jews were upset over rehabilitation of a Holocaust denier and there was scandal over the leaking of the pope’s private papers by his personal butler.

In an announcement read to cardinals in Latin, the universal language of the Church, the 85-year-old said: “Well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of St Peter …

“As from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours (1900 GMT) the See of Rome, the See of St. Peter will be vacant and a conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.”


At a news conference, chief Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the pope did not fear a possible “schism” in the Church, with Catholics owing allegiances to a past and present pope in case of differences on Church teachings.

The pope, known for his conservative doctrine, stepped up the Church’s opposition to gay marriage, underscored the Church’s resistance to a female priesthood and to embryonic stem cell research.

But Lombardi said Benedict, who is expected to go into isolation for at least a while after his resignation, did not intend to influence the decision of the cardinals who will enter a secret conclave to elect a successor.

A new leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics could be elected as soon as Palm Sunday, on March 24, and be ready to take over by Easter a week later, Lombardi said.

He indicated the complex machinery of the process to elect a new pope would move quickly because the Vatican would not have to wait until after the elaborate funeral services for a pope.

The decision shocked many throughout the world, from ordinary believers, to politicians to world religious leaders.

“This is disconcerting, he is leaving his flock,” said Alessandra Mussolini, a parliamentarian who is granddaughter of Italy’s wartime dictator.

“The pope is not any man. He is the vicar of Christ. He should stay on to the end, go ahead and bear his cross to the end. This is a huge sign of world destabilization that will weaken the Church.”

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