Monday, February 18, 2013

Habemus Papam

It was a breaking news on Twitter which everyone was reposting; yet again, you couldn’t say something was official unless it was spoken by a credible source. Then, it came. Vatican Spokesperson Federico Lombardi dropped the bomb which sent shockwaves all over the world – triggering both sympathy and speculations as to what was truly happening within the walls of the Vatican. Minutes later, the Holy See released an official statement bearing the message – which said it real and straight: 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. 

Pope Benedict XVI now has more than a week to remain in the seat of the Holy See. On February 28, the highest office of the Catholic Church will be declared vacant as Benedict leaves the Papacy after eight years. In March, one of the 117 cardinals will took the helm and succeed Peter.

Pope  Benedict XVI leading Sunday's Angelus (REUTERS)

Benedict or Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger led the Church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for 24 years before he took over the Papacy. He became famous for his monikers “Cardinal No” and “God’s Rottweiler” for taking up firm stances involving Catholic teachings. He led efforts to crack down on religious pluralism and other challenging issues which have polarized the Church. Working closely with Pope John Paul II and heading the College of Cardinals by the time John Paul died, he was picked by his colleagues to take the seat of the Holy See. By then, he was 78. 

Benedict, now 85, said he was no longer fit to lead the Church due to deteriorating “strength of mind and body”. He was the first Pope to resign in the modern times – 600 years after Pope Gregory XII stepped down. Some said Benedict had given premonitions of his resignation four years ago, when he left his pallium – a symbol of papal authority – on the tomb of Pope Celestine V. Celestine, in the 13th century, also bowed out from the Papacy. 

Faithful looking up the Saint Peter's Basilica during Sunday's Angelus (REUTERS)

Benedict will spend his retirement in a small lake town southeast of Rome where popes traditionally have their summer. Meanwhile, in the Vatican, priesthood work will continue for the cardinals who will choose among them the next leader of the Church. All eyes will again be on the Sistine Chapel, waiting for a white smoke and a resounding announcement for another age in the Catholic Church’s history, Habemus papam.

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