Vatican spokesman Fr Lombardi
For Angelo Sodano, dean of the college of cardinals, it was a "bolt from the blue". As Pope Benedict XVI announced his intention to carry out the first willing papal resignation since 1294, he left those assembled stunned and incredulous. The Catholic world reeled. From Manila to Mexico, from Santiago to St Peter's square, the question everyone wanted answered was: why? reports The Guardian.
In his address, read tremulously but with resolve in Latin, Benedict gave his reasons; they were straightforward enough, if a little vague. He was stepping down, he explained, because of his "advanced age" and declining strengths, both of mind and body.
His own, he said, had "deteriorated in me to the extent that I have to recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me". And that, the Vaticaninsisted, was that.
At a press conference arranged hurriedly by a Holy See that seemed almost as shocked as everyone else, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said the 85-year-old's "personal decision" had been made in recent months without any external pressure.
He ruled out depression or theological uncertainty as motives, and rejected the idea that a specific illness – whether of the mind or body – had prompted the Pope to act. "It was his personal decision taken in complete freedom," said Lombardi. "And which merits maximum respect," he added
The timing of the announcement was certainly unexpected – a source said there had been no whisper in the Vatican City of the Pope's intentions over the weekend.
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