By now you have probably heard that our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has chosen to resign from the papacy, effective on February 28th. Yesterday in Rome he spoke to a gathering of cardinals, where he made the announcement in Latin (translated from the Vatican’s website):
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 barque 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, 10 February 2013
While this announcement may evoke in us an emotional – perhaps even confused – response, let us trust in Christ and in His Providence and Plan for His Bride, the Church. As we seek to trust in God’s plan, let us especially offer many prayers for our Holy Father, the 117 cardinal electors who will elect a new pope, and for the next successor who will shepherd the Church.
One prayer that we can consider using is called the Oratio pro summo Pontifice – simply, the Prayer for the Pope:
V. Let us pray for Benedict, our Pope.
R. May the Lord preserve him, and give him life, and make him blessed upon the earth, and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies (Psalm 40:3).
Say one Our Father, one Hail Mary
O God, Shepherd and Ruler of all Thy faithful people, look mercifully upon Thy servant N, whom Thou hast chosen as shepherd to preside over Thy Church. Grant him, we beseech Thee, that by his word and example, he may edify those over whom he hath charge, so that together with the flock committed to him, may he attain everlasting life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Still have questions about the Holy Father’s resignation, or perhaps questions about what comes next? Join us for Mustard Seed, our weekly large group gathering, on Thursday, February 21st for a brief lesson in Conclaves 101. Fr. Eric Sternberg will join us to provide some insight into what is a conclave and what will it look like, as well as provide answers to any questions you might have.
As we near the end of the pontificate of Pope Benedict and usher in a new age in the life of the Church, let us keep in mind the wise words of the Holy Father, some of the first words he spoke to us as Pope, at his installation Mass almost eight years ago:
My dear friends – at this moment I can only say: pray for me, that I may learn to love the Lord more and more. Pray for me, that I may learn to love his flock more and more – in other words, you, the holy Church, each one of you and all of you together. Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves. Let us pray for one another, that the Lord will carry us and that we will learn to carry one another.