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Following the example of many other leaders, Catholic and otherwise, the Dutch bishops also released a statement following Pope Benedict’s surprise announcement that he would resign at the end of this month. Below follows the text in my translation.
Before this official statement, Bishop Jan Hendriks, auxiliary of Haarlem-Amsterdam, shared his own thoughts about the news. He noted how the Holy Father clearly seemed very fatigued when he last met the Holy Father in September.
“Today we received the news about the resignation, at the end of this month, of Pope Benedict XVI. As for so many others, this news was a surprise to us.
The Holy Father announced that his resignation would take effect on Thursday 28 February at 8pm. His age and health are the decisive reasons for this radical and historical decision.
Pope Benedict XVI is one of the greatest theologians in the Catholic world of the second half of the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty-first century. His knowledge is not only limited to dogmatics, which he taught in his younger years, but extends over the entire field of theology. This was also expressed in his encyclicals, other letters and addresses as contributions to the magisterium of the Church. He also showed himself a true shepherd of the Church. Pope Benedict XVI, then, has played a role in the Roman Catholic Church which should not be underestimated. We are very grateful for his pontificate.
In his statement, Pope Benedict XVI also announced the conclave in which a new Pope will be elected. Cardinal Eijk will participate in this conclave.
At the age of 78, Cardinal Ratzinger heard the call of the Lord and accepted the highest office in the Church. Now, almost 8 years later, he decided to retire. We pray for Pope Benedict, that he may be richly “blessed” by God, also after his resignation.”
Bishop Hans van den Hende of Rotterdam also expressed his surprise at today’s news. He expressed the hope that the Pope would continue to travel with us in prayer, “in the pilgrimage that our life on earth most deeply is”. He asked all faithful in the diocese to pray for Pope Benedict and the Church.
Come the evening of 28 February, the Church will have to make do without a Supreme Pontiff. For how long, we don’t know, and it is certainly a different situation than the last time this happened.
A pope stepping down, a conclave without mourning a deceased Holy Father, but with the all the chaos, temporary suspensions of functions and preparations to gather all the cardinals and prepare the Sistine Chapel that come with the election of a new pope.
So what can we expect in the coming weeks, which will certainly be interesting, emotional and exciting?
Things will change at the time that Pope Benedict XVI has indicated: 8pm on Thursday 28 February. At that time, he will no longer be pope, and the See of Peter will be officially vacant. Pope Benedict XVI will then no longer be called that, although it remains to be seen how we will refer to him in the future. The former Pope will remove to Castel Gandolfo and, at a later date, he will take up residence in a monastery within the Vatican walls.
A limited set of duties normally held by the Pope, will fall to the College of Cardinals. The heads of the Curial offices will resign as well, although they will be reinstated by the new pope, as is standard. The exceptions are Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone as Camerlengo – he will continue to manage the properties of the Church; Cardinal Manuel Monteiro de Castro as Major Penitentiary; and all Holy See representatives across the world. The vicars-general of the Diocese of Rome, Cardinals Angelo Comastri and Agostino Vallini, will also continue in their pastoral duties.
The major event of the sede vacante will of course be the conclave to elect the new Pope. During today’s press briefing, Fr. Federico Lombardi said that this will take place in mid-March, and we’ll have a new Pope before Easter. Barring any deaths, 117 cardinal electors will travel to Rome to participate in the conclave.
Several cardinals and other officials will have specific duties in the conclave. The Dean of the College Cardinals, being over 80, will not be present, so his duties will be taken over by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re. Also accompanying the cardinals will be Msgr. Guido Marini, the Papal Master of Ceremonies. He will lock the door of the Sistine Chapel, after calling “Extra omnes!”, “Everybody (who is not an elector), out!”. Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, the secretary of the College of Cardinals, will also be present. Neither of them will, however, attend the actual voting.
The conclave may take several days and will take place in utter secrecy. Although the electors are not obliged to elect one of their own, they most probably will. On this page I provide a list of members of the College of Cardinals. The names in bold are those of cardinal electors at this moment. One name will be removed from that list, as Cardinal Lubomyr Husar will reach the age of 80 before the Pope’s retirement. A closer look at the electors and some guesses about the future will follow later.
Photo credit:  Visibly aged since his election, Pope Benedict pictured during a visit to a seminary in Rome, last week.
I don’t know what to say… Pope Benedict XVI today announced his retirement…
“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.”
Considering my speechlessness at this moment, I can only express my gratitude and affection for our Holy Father. Thank you.