Reporting Tim Kephart
VATICAN CITY (CBSMiami) – Pope Benedict XVI stunned the Catholic world Monday morning by announcing his resignation from the job effective at the end of February.
Pope Benedict’s resignation as pope is the first to hit the papacy since Gregory XII in 1415 when he was trying to settle the Western Schism. Before that, the last pope to resign was Celestine V in 1294.
The news rocked the Catholic world including the Archdiocese of Miami which was planning to talk about the resignation throughout the day Monday.
- Click here to read the full text of the Pope’s resignation announcement
“We are surprised, but perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised because he’s 85-years-old and has experienced declining health in recent years,” said Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski.
Speculation has swirled around the current pope’s health over the last year. Pope Benedict XVI said his advanced age and diminishing strength made him feel he couldn’t carry on in his current capacity.
Archbishop Wenski said the pope’s historic move will give Catholics a unique opportunity to thank him for his service before his death.
“I am the archbishop of Miami because it was Pope Benedict XVI who sent me here and so I am grateful for his confidence in me. I’ve met him several times in the past,” Wenski said.
One of those meetings was just last year when Wenski led a group of roughly 500 Catholics from Miami to Cuba during Pope Benedict’s pilgrimage there.
Benedict XVI has been pope since 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II. Benedict’s time in the Vatican has been tumultuous due to the sexual abuse of young parishioners and his office was rocked in recent months after the pope’s butler stole sensitive documents.
But, Wenski also said there is likely no way the pope’s resignation came from outside pressure.
“The pope can only resign because of his own will; there’s no way to really force out a pope,” Wenski said.
The sermon at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Miami was filled with discussion of Pope Benedict XVI’s surprise decision to resign and filled with prayer.
“So we like Benedict can exercise humility, generosity and care of the people that we’re here in charge of,” Father Christopher Marino told his congregation Monday night. “The church is losing a father in a very unique way for first time in 600 years. We really do believe that God guides all of this.”
Now that Benedict XVI has decided to resign, a conclave to elect a new pope will be convened before the end of March. According to the Vatican communications adviser Greg Burke, Church officials hope to have a new pope in place before Easter.
For some, the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI could be the sign of future calamities. The “prophecy of popes” by St. Malachy reportedly named every pope correctly up to Benedict XVI. However, there is only one pope left on Malachy’s prophecy, Peter the Roman.
During the time of Peter the Roman, the tribulations during the end times are said to begin under Malachy’s prophecy.
In addition, for those that believe in the Petrine Theory, which states that Peter was the first pope of the church, having Peter the Roman as the final pope would put forth an interesting bookend to papal history.