Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Monsignor Oscar Sanchez Barba of Mexico witnessed Pope Benedict’s surprise announcement to resign, and he described the scene to John Hooper of the Guardian:We were all in the Sala del Concistorio in the third loggia of the Apostolic palace. After giving the date for the canonisation, the 12th of May, the pope took a sheet of paper and read from it.
He just said that he was resigning and that he would be finishing on February 28.
We were all left … [he trailed off, lost for words]
The cardinals were just looking at one another. Then the pope got to his feet, gave his benediction and left. It was so simple; the simplest thing imaginable. Extraordinary. Nobody expected it.
Then we all left in silence. There was absolute silence … and sadness.
The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII, who did so in 1415 to end the Great Western Schism that saw three people claiming the Papal throne.
Benedict, 85, has led the church since April 2005, when he was elected to succeed Pope John Paul II.
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told reporters that a conclave could be held within 15 or 20 days of the resignation to choose a new pontiff, which means that the Catholic Church will be without a leader for most of March.
The pope’s brother, Georg Ratzinger, said that Benedict has been considering resigned for months after his doctor advised him against taking transatlantic trips for health reasons.
“His age is weighing on him,” the 89-year-old said of his 85-year-old brother. “At this age my brother wants more rest.”
Here’s Pope Benedict’s last tweet before announcing his resignation:
We must trust in the mighty power of God’s mercy. We are all sinners, but His grace transforms us and makes us new.
— Benedict XVI (@Pontifex) February 10, 2013
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