Shelby: Last night, Pope Benedict XVI became the first pope in six centuries to step down from his position rather than serve for life.
At age 85, Benedict says he no longer has the mental or physical strength to lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics and that he plans to spend his final years in prayer. People from all over the world gathered to hear his final words.
Kayla Trautman: I know as we watch him and as we get to say goodbye as well and welcome a new pope, that we’ll be praying for him. We’ll be with him every moment along the way.
Shelby: The German native, born Joseph Ratzinger, will now be known as ‘emeritus pope’ in his retirement. He will also continue wearing a white robe and will live in Vatican City, the headquarters of the Catholic Church.
Still, stepping down is an untraditional move for a very tradition-minded pope. In his eight years as the head of the Catholic Church, Benedict XVI brought back an older version of mass spoken in Latin. And he took a strong conservative political stance, speaking out against same-sex marriage and abortion. Yet while promoting the old ways of the Catholic faith, Benedict also set out to keep the church young. He made headlines when he signed up for a Twitter account in December of last year.
But Benedict’s reign was also tainted by scandal. He was criticized for not doing enough to remove priests who had been accused of sexual abuse.
Ellen Reedy: I think we do need to definitely take a look at how things were handled and how…and make changes going forward.
Shelby: And just this week, Italian media outlets accused the pope of retiring not because of his old age, but because of infighting and alleged conspiracies. The Vatican struck back, accusing the media of false reports.
Father Tom Rosica: Oftentimes, such articles are unverified, unverifiable or completely false and this does serious damage to persons and institutions in the church.
Shelby: The pope defended his decision to step down this week.
Benedict: The decision I have made after much prayers…
Shelby: He explained that his choice was in the best interest of the church.
Before he officially resigned, Pope Benedict made one last move. He changed the rules about how his successor will be chosen. Cardinals, the top leaders of the Catholic Church, no longer have to wait 15 days after the pope leaves to begin voting for a new holy father. They will be meeting on Monday morning to begin setting a date for the secret ceremony, known as the conclave, where they will elect a new pope.
Cardinal Francis George: I’ve got four or five names in mind. That’s part of the next days’ work.
Shelby: Once the conclave begins, the 115 voting cardinals won’t be able to leave the Vatican until a decision has been made. The cardinals cast ballots over and over again until two-thirds agree on the new pope. With the old leader’s departure and new rules in place, many Catholics are hoping the next pope will be chosen before Easter Sunday, which is March 31st.
Matthew Speer: I’m praying that the cardinals will choose the right pope who’s going to lead the church to where it needs to be in a difficult time.
Shelby: Shelby Holliday, Channel One News.