Courtesy of MCT
An announcement that hasn’t been made in almost 600 years came from the Vatican Monday.
Pope Benedict XVI, the church’s 265th pope, will be stepping down as head of the Catholic Church at the end of the month after an almost eight-year reign. The 85-year-old, born in Germany as Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, cited old age and deteriorating strength of “mind and body” as reasons for his resignation, which will take effect Feb. 28.
“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,” the pope said in a statement Monday.
Benedict said in his statement that he understood the seriousness of his actions, and that many of the world’s one billion Catholics are watching.
“It will be interesting to see how students are responding,” said Austin Schafer, pastoral associate of campus ministry at the St. Thomas More Newman Center on Lane Avenue. “Most people are just offering prayers for the pope’s health and praying for the new leader of the church.”
The Newman Center has about 2,500 students in its congregation, and Schafer estimated there are roughly 12,000 Catholic students on campus based on demographic research of its more than 50,000 students.
The news of the pope’s resignation came just two days before Lent, which lasts the 40 days before Easter.
Kody Volkman, a third-year in political science and history who attends the Newman Center, said she is unsure about how she feels.
“I am a strong Catholic, but it’s very surprising to me and it’s very out of character for a pope, especially in (this) day and age,” she said.
Schafer said the church should have a new pope by Easter, which falls on March 31 this year.
“It will be interesting to see the selection and which new directions the leader will take,” Schafer said.
Kathleen Ott, a second-year in psychology and a member of the Newman Center, said she found out about the pope’s announcement on Twitter Monday morning.
“I saw somebody tweet, ‘The pope has given up on the world,’ and I just thought that was disappointing that he quit on us,” she said. “But I’m hopeful that we can have a more progressive pope, someone that’s not stuck in his ways.”
Benedict was elected in 2005 after the death of John Paul II. Benedict was known by many for his conservative nature, and his papacy was riddled with clerical abuse scandals. Many reports indicated Benedict was showing signs of age recently – The New York Times reported that he appeared to have dozed off during Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.
“I think that if he feels that him stepping down because he is physically unable to take under(take) the responsibly as pope is going to help the church, then, I’m all for him stepping down and handing it to someone … he feels that God will put in his position to carry out the responsibilities that are required of the pope,” Volkman said.
Bishop of Columbus Frederick Campbell issued a statement Monday voicing his surprise about Benedict’s upcoming resignation.
“We feel a great sense of gratitude and enrichment from Pope Benedict’s contribution to our spiritual lives and pray for his health and well-being in upcoming retirement,” he said in the statement. “We also offer our prayers to our Cardinals, who will soon gather to select a new pope to walk.”
The College of Cardinals is the Catholic body made up of 209 cardinals, 118 of which are under the age of 80, making them eligible to vote for a new pope after Benedict’s official last day Feb. 28, according to the Vatican’s website.
The 85-year-old pontiff will not have a vote in the process of electing his predecessor, Schafer said.
Ott and Volkman said they are excited about the process of finding a new pope.
When a pope is chosen, the smoke coming out of the Sistine Chapel is changed from black to white.
“I remember when (Pope John Paul II) died, watching the TV for hours just waiting for white (smoke) to come out,” Ott said. “I’m really looking forward to it.”
Volkman said new popes are exciting because they’re the highest members of the Catholic Church.
“He is looked at as almost as perfect as a human being can get, so I’m excited to see who it’s going to be,” Volkman said.
Schafer said the Newman Center’s lounge will be open to students to watch the coverage of the voting process once it begins in March.