On Monday, Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world when he announced he would be resigning from his position as the head of the Roman Catholic Church.
In front of a small group of cardinals, the 85-year old pope cited his resignation was due to old age and a decline in energy, according to the Vatican’s website. This is the first time a pope has given up his duties since Pope Gregory XII in 1415.
Benedict spoke in Latin stating, “…in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”
“He is much more elderly than past popes,” Rachel Novosad (junior-psychology) said. “No matter the reason behind it, I hope he is okay.”
Formerly known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict was born in Germany and ordained on July 29, 1951 after World War II. He was elected by a council of cardinals as the new pope in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II.
“Declining health is definitely a possibility,” Robert Aichele (senior-biochemistry) said. “I’m sure there will be conspiracy theories, but we won’t know if any are true until they come to light.”
His reign is one of the shortest in the history of the church. During the eight years of his papacy, Benedict dealt with various controversies, including child abuse scandals and a statement he made at the University of Regensburg in Bavaria, Germany in September 2006.
In his speech, Benedict had quoted a 14th century Christian emperor that spoke about the teachings of Muhammad, the Islamic prophet, as “evil and inhuman.”
The pope came under fire from Muslims around the world, who were angered over the negative connotation about their faith in the quote.
The resignation came as a surprise to Newman Catholic Student Association’s president, Thomas Riley (junior-bioengineering).
“No one in the church was expecting this to happen,” Riley said.
In response to Benedict’s resignation, Bishop Bartchak of The Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona and Johnstown released a statement on the diocese website, today.
Bartchak said, “Pope Benedict served the Church well be providing continuity in the tradition of the Catholic faith in its entirety. He is a person of deep spirituality calling people into a closer relationship with Jesus Christ. He is also a person of great intellect and an excellent teacher. I would not be surprised if he will continue to reflect on and write about topics that are important to him even after he retires. I am certainly grateful for his leadership in our Church, and we continue to keep him in our prayers.”
The Vatican spokesman, Father Lombardi, said Benedict will end his papacy at 8 p.m. on February 28, at which time the search for a new pope will begin. The Vatican hopes to have the position filled by Easter of 2013.
Of what he expects of the new pope, Riley said, “A new pope always has a different outlook and approach of how to run the church.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.