Respect expressed for Pope Benedict as he resigns
The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI has brought words of respect and appreciation from the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit.
Benedict first announced his decision in a meeting of cardinals at the Vatican on Monday, February 11. His deteriorating health was cited as the reason for him to step down from his post as of the end of February.
“We have to respect fully the decision of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to resign,” Tveit said from New York where he was visiting the WCC United Nations office.
“With deep respect I have seen how he has carried the responsibility and burdens of his ministry in his advanced age, in a very demanding time for the church.”
He said, “I express my appreciation for his love and commitment to the church and to the ecumenical movement.
“Let us pray that God bless him in this moment and this phase of his life, and that God will guide and bless the Roman Catholic Church in a very important time of transition.”
“Pope Benedict knows the WCC well,” Tveit said, referring to the time in the late 1960s and early 1970s when, as a professor of theology at the University of Tuebingen, Germany, he was a member of the WCC Faith and Order Commission.
‘Dignity, insight and courage’
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said, “It was with a heavy heart but complete understanding that we learned this morning of Pope Benedict’s declaration of his decision to lay down the burden of ministry as Bishop of Rome, an office which he has held with great dignity, insight and courage.
“As I prepare to take up office I speak not only for myself, and my predecessors as Archbishop, but for Anglicans around the world, in giving thanks to God for a priestly life utterly dedicated, in word and deed, in prayer and in costly service, to following Christ. He has laid before us something of the meaning of the Petrine ministry of building up the people of God to full maturity.
“In his visit to the United Kingdom, Pope Benedict showed us all something of what the vocation of the See of Rome can mean in practice — a witness to the universal scope of the gospel and a messenger of hope at a time when Christian faith is being called into question.
“In his teaching and writing he has brought a remarkable and creative theological mind to bear on the issues of the day. We who belong to other Christian families gladly acknowledge the importance of this witness and join with our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters in thanking God for the inspiration and challenge of Pope Benedict’s ministry.
“We pray that God will bless him profoundly in retirement with health and peace of mind and heart, and we entrust to the Holy Spirit those who have a responsibility to elect his successor.”
Pope and conclave held in prayer
The National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) has written to the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity assuring that it will uphold the Roman Catholic Church in prayer at this time as the news of the resignation of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI is received by the world.
The Rev. Tara Curlewis, NCCA general secretary said, “It is with surprise that we hear the news from the Holy Father recognising that both his poor health and concern for the leadership of the Church has led to the announcement that he will retire from office on February 28. This is a time to uphold the Pope’s health in prayer and also the Conclave as it convenes to elect the next Pontiff.”
Ms Curlewis recalled how during the 2008 World Youth day Pope Benedict XVI met with both ecumenical and inter-religious leaders.
During his address to ecumenical leaders the Pope said, “Every element of the Church’s structure is important, yet all of them would falter and crumble without the cornerstone who is Christ. As ‘fellow citizens’ of the ‘household of God’, Christians must work together to ensure that the edifice stands strong so that others will be attracted to enter and discover the abundant treasures of grace within.”
Ms Curlewis said, “Clearly it is from a place of prayer and discernment as well as his conviction as to the importance of every aspect of the church and particularly the importance of good leadership that has brought Pope Benedict XVI to this momentous decision.
“The mantle of leadership can weigh heavy on those to whom it is entrusted and it is never easy to lay it aside. I have much respect for the courage of the Holy Father and along with the church universal will pray for his health and his successor.”
Pope Benedict’s resignation statement
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, February 10, 2013
BENEDICTUS PP XVI