CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (AP) -- Benedict XVI has become the first pope in 600 years to resign, ending an eight-year pontificate shaped by struggles to move the church past sex abuse scandals and to reawaken Christianity in an indifferent world.The Swiss Guards standing at attention in Castel Gandolfo shut the gates of the palazzo shortly after 8 p.m. Thursday (2 p.m. EST), symbolically closing the doors on a papacy whose legacy will be most marked by the way it ended - a resignation instead of a death.In a final farewell to his cardinals as pope, Benedict tried to dispel concerns about the unprecedented future awaiting the Catholic Church, with one reigning and one retired pope living side-by-side. He pledged his "unconditional reverence and obedience" to his successor....
VATICAN CITY — What will he be called? Will he keep his white robes and trademark red loafers? And in the last absolute monarchy in the West, how does the dramatic resignation of Benedict XVI, the first pope to step down willingly in six centuries, change a role long considered by the Roman Catholic Church to be that of God’s representative on Earth?In transforming an office with an aura of divinity into something far more human, Benedict’s decision has sent shock waves through the Vatican hierarchy, who next month will elect his successor. But it has also puzzled the faithful and scholars, who wonder how a pope can be infallible one day and fallible again the next — and whether that might undermine the authority of church teaching....
by Charles Keenan
Basilica of St. Peter. Credit: Wiki Commons.In a surprise announcement this morning, Pope Benedict XVI announced his intention to resign the office of the papacy effective at 8:00 p.m. on February 28. Per the Vatican's official announcement, Benedict declared to the cardinals gathered in consistory that given his advanced age (the pope is 85 years old), he feels he lacks the physical strength to continue fulfilling the duties of the papal office.The announcement took the world, including those at the Vatican, by surprise -- a "bolt of lightning from a clear sky," one cardinal reportedly remarked. Papal resignations are not unprecedented, though they have proven extremely rare. Along with death, resignation is one of the two ways the papal office can be vacated according to canon law. Benedict will be the first pope to resign in nearly six hundred years, making his announcement all the more remarkable.
by David Austin Walsh
UPDATE, 2-28-13: As of 2:28 pm today, Pope Benedict XVI has stepped down from the papacy.* * * * *In an unexpected announcement today, Pope Benedict XVI stated he is resigning from the papacy as of February 28. Benedict's abdication, reportedly due to ill health, apparently took even the pope's closest advisors by surprise. Indeed, a pope hasn't stepped down from the papacy in over six hundred years, and the few instances when popes have resigned have been for reasons either more political -- or more corrupt -- than health.A look back at the confirmed instances of papal abdication:
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