Posted by Rafiq A. Tschannen
From The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/feb/11/pope-resigns-live-reaction
Kate Hodal reports from the Philippines, the largest Catholic country in Asia, with roughly 76 million predominantly Roman Catholic followers (others are Aglipayan Catholics):
The church is a huge but increasingly divisive force in the nation, a place where some 7 million Roman Catholics came out to see Pope John Paul II give mass in Manila in 1995 – thought to be the largest Christian gathering in history – but where in recent years, the church has been associated with corruption, questionable leadership and a fierce opposition to the reproductive health bill, which allows the state the right to fund contraception and sex-education classes.
So while many in the country have taken to social media to profess their sadness over the pope’s resignation, some are using the news to joke that members of the Philippine church would do well to follow suit, as would certain government leaders.
But there are also many calls for Manila’s archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle, who was recently ordained a cardinal, to become pope himself. Now that Benedict has resigned, Tagle is among 120 cardinals who can vote for his successor.
There is immediate speculation in South Africa that Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, archbishop of Durban, could be a candidate to be the next pope, reports David Smith.
A spokesman for the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference said: “It would be sheer speculation but for a long time our church has been saying the next pope should be selected from a ‘missionary territory’, which means Africa, Asia or South America. Cardinal Napier is right up there.” Napier is already a match for Benedict XVI when it comes to tweeting.
Here is a gallery showing Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy in pictures.
In Brazil, the world’s biggest Catholic country, the resignation has generated shock and disbelief, reports Jonathan Watts.
Newspaper and TV websites pushed wall-to-wall coverage of Carnival festivities down to second place to run galleries of photographs of Benedict XVI and reactions from the Vatican and world leaders.
The National Conference of Brazilian Bishops received the information with surprise. A spokesperson for the Catholic organisation told Globo website it has no guidelines on papal resignations. The group is expected to release a statement later today as is the government.
Brazil had been gearing up for a papal visit in July, when Benedict XVI was scheduled to attend a World Youth Day Festival in Rio de Janeiro. He had previously visited Sao Paulo in 2007, when he met with the then-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, canonised a saint and addressed a conference of Latin American bishops.
This continent is home to half of the 1 billion Catholics in the world. Brazil is estimated to have 125 million believers – more than any other country, though the church is thought to have lost ground to other evangelical groups and religions in recent years.
To the vast majority of people today’s news will have come – as one cardinal put it – as “a lightening bolt from a clear sky”. But some scholars have been slightly less surprised, reports Lizzy Davies in Rome.
George Ferzoco, a research fellow of Bristol University, is a specialist in Celestine V – the Pope who, as we now all know, resigned in 1294 straight after making it possible for a pope to do so. He points out that Benedict is the only pope to have visited the tomb of Celestine not once but twice.
As this AP report from the second occasion says, Benedict praised his predecessor, who was felt both by himself and by others to be unsuited to the role given him.
Of course, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but Ferzoco believes the link is quite obviously there. He told me: “I think the amount of attention he drew to Celestine was an indication of this matter having been on his mind. I think it’s quite clear.”
Ferzoco also pointed out that in the town of Sulmona, home to Celestine’s tomb, the cathedral has a mosaic showing both Celestine and Benedict: an image which, after today, appears uncannily prescient.
Pope Benedict XVI stands by the remains of Pope Celestine V in 2009. Pope Benedict XVI stands by the remains of Pope Celestine V in 2009. Photograph: AP
I noted earlier that with Cardinal Peter Turkson one of the favourites to succeed Benedict the era of an African pope may now have arrived. As many readers have pointed out, Turkson would not be the first pope from that continent. Alex Fenton-Thomas has more:
It is thought there were three African popes during the early days of Christianity in the first half of the first century.
Pope Victor I was the first African pope, hailing from the Roman city of Leptis Magna in modern-day Libya. The spectacular ruins of this city are still to be found on the Mediterranean coast, just east of Tripoli.
Pope Miltiades was elected pope in 311 and presided over the time when Constantine converted to Christianity, seized control of the Empire after the Battle of Milvian Bridge and ended the persecution of Christians with the Edict of Milan. Miltiades was from a rich north African family living in Rome and it is thought he was chosen to be pontiff to placate the rebellious Berber sect, the Donatists, who were also from North-Africa.
The last African pope, who also of Berber origin, was Pope Gelasius from 492-496.
Here is a summary of today’s key events:
• Pope Benedict XVI has resigned, saying that at age he cannot carry out all his tasks adequately and is losing strength in body and mind.
• The pope will step down on 28 February. A papal conclave will follow to elect his successor, who will be in place by the end of March, and perhaps in time for holy week on 24 March.
• The pope says he wishes to continue to serve the Catholic church “through a life dedicated to prayer”. There was “absolute silence” this morning when the pope told cardinals the news, according to Mexican prelate Monsignor Oscar Sanchez, who witnessed his resignation.
• Benedict made his decision over the last few months, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said, and it took all his closest aides by surprise. He will honour his commitments until he steps down. Lombardi said this was Benedict’s own personal decision. Upon resigning, he will go to the papal summer residence near Rome, and then will move to a cloistered residence in the Vatican, which may make life difficult for his successor.
• Bookmakers have made Ghana’s Cardinal Peter Turkson favourite to succeed Benedict. Angelo Scola, the conservative archbishop of Milan, is another top candidate.
• The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, the head of the Anglican church, said he had learned of the pope’s resignation with a “heavy heart but complete understanding”.
• The last pope to resign was Gregory XII, in 1415.
France Television, the state broadcaster, sent a film crew to Notre
Dame de Paris cathedral in Paris where they filmed shocked visitors in
tears when the news broke, writes Kim Willsher from the French capital.
French president François Hollande said the pope’s decision to resign was “eminently respectable”.
“I have no particular comment to make on this decision, which is eminently respectable and which means a new pope will be chosen,” Hollande said. He added: “The Republic salutes the pope who has made this decision.”
Christine Boutin, president of the French Christian Democrat party, said: “It’s a shock, an immense shock and extraordinary for Catholics.”
François Bayrou, president of the centrist Modem party said the pope’s decision was a “very brave gesture, which will open the life of the church to a new era”.
Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. Photograph: Paul Owen Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. Photograph: Paul Owen
Updated 25m ago
Meanwhile the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, the head of the Anglican church, has said he learned of the pope’s resignation with a “heavy heart but complete understanding”.
As I prepare to take up office I speak not only for myself, and my predecessors as archbishop, but for Anglicans around the world, in giving thanks to God for a priestly life utterly dedicated, in word and deed, in prayer and in costly service, to following Christ. He has laid before us something of the meaning of the Petrine ministry of building up the people of God to full maturity.
And British PM David Cameron paid tribute to Pope Benedict:
He has worked tirelessly to strengthen Britain’s relations with the Holy See. His visit to Britain in 2010 is remembered with great respect and affection. He will be missed as a spiritual leader to millions.
Here’s more from the press conference held by Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi, which has now finished.
Lombardi said the pope made his decision in the last few months.
Benedict will honour his official commitments and public engagements until the date of his resignation, Lombardi said.
The next pope may be elected in time for the start of holy week on 24 March, he said.
Alex Fenton-Thomas profiles Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, named by British bookmakers as the favourite to succeed Benedict.
Cardinal Peter Turkson, a Ghanaian, is president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. He has been considered ‘papabile’ since he was appointed to this post by Benedict XVI in 2009 amid speculation that the next pope would probably be from Africa as part of the Catholic church’s attempts to modernise and reach out to a huge Catholic congregation from the Sahel southwards.
Peter Turkson was born in western Ghana to a Methodist mother and Catholic father. As a boy in the seminary he was considered far too boisterous to be content in a contemplative, solemn career in the church.
But he was reportedly begged by his mother to knuckle down and study hard to become a priest, and he did so well he was chosen to move to the US to study at St Anthony-on-Hudson Seminary in Rensselaer, New York, and he was ordained as a priest in 1975.
Returning to Ghana, he became a professor at St Teresa’s Seminary, near where he grew up, and dedicated himself to academia as well as performing pastoral work in the local area.
In 1992 he was appointed Archbishop of Cape Coast by Pope John Paul II and served as president of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference from 1997 to 2005.
It was during this time, in 2003, when Pope John Paul made him the first ever Ghanaian cardinal and his influence was extended by Pope Benedict XVI, who appointed him president of the Ponitifical Council for Justice and Peace, a role which sent him around the world mediating in countries such as the Ivory Coast in 2011.
In October of that year he called for the establishment of a ‘global public authority’ and a ‘central world bank’ and has come out in favour of a Robin Hood-style tax on large financial transactions. When he visited Britain with Pope Benedict in 2010 he was singled out as a possible successor.
Pope’s resignation – eyewitness account
John Hooper has been speaking to Mexican prelate Monsignor Oscar Sanchez, who witnessed the pope’s resignation.
Standing in the colonnade that encircles St Peter’s square, his vestments draped over one arm, Monsignor Oscar Sanchez Barba from Guadalajara in Mexico told Hooper he had come to Rome to be told the date for the canonisation of the Blessed Lupita Garcia, a nun. Sanchez said:
We were all in the Sala del Concistorio in the third loggia of the Apostolic palace. After giving the date for the canonisation, the 12th of May, the pope took a sheet of paper and read from it.
He just said that he was resigning and that he would be finishing on February 28.
We were all left … [he tailed off, lost for words]
The cardinals were just looking at one another. Then the pope got to his feet, gave his benediction and left. It was so simple; the simplest thing imaginable. Extraordinary. Nobody expected it.
Then we all left in silence. There was absolute silence … and sadness.
Here’s more from the press conference being given by Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi.
Lombardi has said the pope took his decision “aware of the great problems the church faces today”. His decision showed “great courage” and “determination”, Lombardi said.
It was Benedict’s own personal decision made without any outside pressure.
He ruled out depression or “uncertainty” as the cause of his resignation.
And he said the resignation was not due to any specific illness.
The pope may have wanted to resign now to avoid the exhausting rush of Easter engagements, Lombardi said.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the head of the Catholic church in England and Wales, has said the pope’s announcement has “shocked and surprised everyone”.
Yet, on reflection, I am sure that many will recognise it to be a decision of great courage and characteristic clarity of mind and action.
The Holy Father recognises the challenges facing the church and that “strength of mind and body are necessary” for his tasks of governing the church and proclaiming the Gospel.
I salute his courage and his decision.
I ask people of faith to keep Pope Benedict in their prayers. We Catholics will do so, with great affection and the highest esteem for his ministry as our holy father remembering with joy his visit to the United Kingdom in 2010. Pray, too, for the church and all the steps that must take place in the next weeks. We entrust ourselves to the loving providence of God and the guidance of the holy spirit.
In Scotland, Cardinal Keith O’Brien also says he is “shocked and saddened”.
I know that his decision will have been considered most carefully and that it has come after much prayer and reflection. I will offer my prayers for Pope Benedict and call on the Catholic community of Scotland to join me in praying for him at this time of deterioration in his health as he recognises his incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to him.
I hope I will also be able to rely on the prayers of Catholics across the world for the Cardinal Electors as we prepare to travel to Rome in order to participate in the conclave, which will be convoked to elect a successor as Bishop of Rome and Supreme Pontiff.