Monday, February 11, 2013
Big news out of Rome today
Pope Benedict XVI issued the following statement today-
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 bark 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
BENEDICTUS PP XVI
Papal resignations are quite rare. It hasn't happened in 600 years. Benedict is 85 years old. The supreme authority of the Bishop of Rome took centuries to develop. In the early days of the Christian Church, after many churches had been planted by the Apostles and their fellow missionaries, five cities emerged as important centers of Christianity: Rome, Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Constantinople. The Church in Rome was always noteworthy due to its cultural significance and the reports that both of the Apostle’s Paul and Peter had been martyred there. The Roman Bishop was not acknowledged as the primary Bishop of the church in any widespread sense until after Leo I convinced Attila the Hun not to attack Rome in the middle of the 5th Century.
One of chief contributing factors to the rise of the Papacy was the break-up of the Western empire in 476 AD. The confusion in Italy worked to give the Bishop of Rome more authority and influence as he was viewed as a stabilizing agent. People tended to look more to the Bishops than their regional princes or magistrates for protection. One historian characterizes this unusual epoch by saying the “Catholic Church is but the ghost of the dead Roman Empire sitting throned and crowned on the grave thereof.”
The relative political instability granted unofficial powers to the regional Bishops, particularly the Roman See. The Bishop of Rome began to exercise more and more priestly power in the 6th Century using censures to suppress perceived heresies, however this action was aimed more at exerting ecclesiastical power than to correct erroneous doctrine. Over the years the Roman Church has developed biblical justification (through their particular interpretation of Matthew 16:18) for the office of the Pope by linking the See to Peter. Obviously, as a Reformed Christian, I find no biblical basis for the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome, but that's a different topic all together.
For now, the resignation of Benedict is a monumental occurrence in the Roman Church. Evangelical Christians find themselves aligned with Roman Catholicism concerning certain moral causes, and so the person who serves as Pope is important to many of us. Obviously I wish, by God's providence, someone would be chosen who would be friendly to Reformation. This would mean renouncing the office all together...so I'm not holding my breath.