Home / Robert Farley / I Say “Back to Avignon!”

I Say “Back to Avignon!”

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Well, this doesn’t happen every day:

Pope Benedict XVI, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who took office in 2005 following the death of his predecessor, said on Monday that he will resign on Feb. 28, the first pope to do so in six centuries.

A profoundly conservative figure whose papacy was overshadowed by sexual abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church, the pope, 85, said that after examining his 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 his position as head of the world’s Roman Catholics.

While there had been questioning about his health and advancing years, his announcement — even by the Vatican’s official account — stunned many. “The pope took us by surprise,” said Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi, who explained that many cardinals were in Rome on Monday for a ceremony at the Vatican and heard the pope’s address.

As a disinterested observer, I have to say that establishment of a norm of retirement for aging, incapacitated popes seems like an altogether good idea. And also, of course, I like the idea of something happening that hasn’t happened for six centuries; makes me feel special.

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