Pope Benedict says he is stepping down due to his
deteriorating health. Are there other reasons that could have motivated
He does also talk about the pace of global
media and politics and events today. So it's also the circumstances that
are surrounding his age and ill-health. I believe what he says, that
the pace of the job and the pace of today's modern-society
communications make it very difficult for somebody who is not fully fit
and fully capable of dealing with these fast changes. He feels like he
has been left behind in some way, that he can't effectively lead the
church, and that there are probably many other cardinals out there,
potential popes, who could do a better job.
What do you think Benedict's plans are now? Is he likely
to stay at the Vatican, or will he move back to his native Germany?
I would not be surprised if he returned to
Germany. He at least twice asked John Paul II, the previous pope, to let
him return to Germany so he could write, leave Rome, and get back to
what he truly loves. When Pope Benedict was elected in 2005 he went on
the record, very publicly, saying that he did not want this to happen,
that he prayed to God to say, "Please, do not let this happen to me." So
my guess is that he will probably want to get as far away from the
scene as possible.
You don't make it sound like Benedict enjoyed his papal duties.
Well, it's a very difficult job, especially
for somebody who is already 85. He's not a young man. He says in his
letter, very explicitly, that in this day and age it's very hard, you
have to have a strong mind in a strong body, and I don't have those
right now. I think he realized he was not up to the task. Any bishops in
the world can resign for health reasons, so why can't this apply to the
bishop of Rome? That's probably what he is thinking.
What happens now? Do the rules governing the election of
popes apply in this case, or does the situation call for special
The College of Cardinals will meet. Pope
Benedict announced his resignation for 8 p.m. Rome time on February 28,
so the conclave can be held any time after that. Now the question is:
Will Pope Benedict take part in the conclave? He might want to just say,
"This is a decision for the College of Cardinals and you should decide
it." But he is also still the bishop of Rome. He might not take part in
the decision, but it might create some interesting discussions to see
what happens when you have a pope still around and a new pope comes into
Can Pope Benedict's resignation be seen as hurting the Vatican's standing?
I don't think so. I guess it's always
possible, but I think it's something that he probably considered very
carefully, very seriously, and did not take very lightly. What this
says, we'll have to see, because it is unprecedented. We don't know what
the reaction of the world is going to be to something like this. It is