pope benedict xvi

Pope Benedict’s American Fan Club Full of Evangelicals

Not all Catholics appreciated Pope Benedict XVI’s staunch defense of Christian orthodoxy, traditional marriage, and life from conception to natural death. But American evangelicals sure did.

As word spread on Monday of Benedict’s resignation, many evangelicals lamented the impending loss of a powerful spokesman for their conservative causes.

“Pope Benedict XVI has exemplified moral courage and an unwavering commitment to the Gospel message,” said Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, a conservative Christian political group.

“We honor him for his lifelong service to the Lord and his inestimable intellectual contribution to Christian orthodoxy.”

The high praise — “evangelical Benedictions,” you might say — extended beyond U.S. borders as well.

How the Traditional Pope Benedict Is Redefining the Papacy

RNS photo by Gregory A. Shemitz.

Pope Benedict XVI in 2007. RNS photo by Gregory A. Shemitz.

Pope Benedict XVI came into office with the reputation of a conservative hardliner, a vigorous defender of orthodoxy who wanted to restore Tradition — yes, with a capital “T” — to a church that was seen as disturbingly undisciplined.

Yet with the stunning announcement that he is resigning as the 264th successor to Saint Peter, Benedict may wind up fundamentally changing the way the church and the world view the papacy.

That’s because the papacy has come to represent more than an office, and the pope more than just a higher-ranking priest or bishop who enjoys lifetime tenure, a nice Vatican apartment, and the privilege of wearing a white cassock no matter the season.

Instead, the papacy is seen as a divine mission unlike any other in the church, and one that ends only in death.

“Christ did not come down from the cross,” the late John Paul II, Benedict’s immediate predecessor, would tell aides who wondered if his failing health and public suffering should compel him to relinquish his office.

A man is elected pope by the cardinals, yes, but at the behest of the Holy Spirit, according to Catholic theology. He takes a new name, and can’t even go home to collect his things: He moves into the Vatican right away, inhabiting a new identity in a new position — so superior that canon law says a pope can resign, but says he cannot resign to anyone.

Who’s in the Running for Pope? 12 Names to Watch

St. Peter's Basilica Dome, David Carillet/ Shutterstock.com

St. Peter's Basilica Dome, David Carillet/ Shutterstock.com

Pope Benedict XVI’s sudden announcement that he would resign by the end of the month took the church and the world by surprise, in large part because it was a move without precedent in the modern world.

But what comes next is as old and familiar as the papacy itself: Speculating about who will succeed to the Throne of St. Peter.

Indeed, within months of Benedict’s own election in 2005, church insiders and online oddsmakers were trying to figure out who might be next, given that Benedict — now 85 — was already aging,  increasingly frail, and had himself declared that he did not expect his reign to be a long one.

So what will happen when the world’s cardinals gather before the splendor of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment fresco in the Sistine Chapel to elect a new pope? Who are the “papabile,” as the Italians say, the “pope-able” cardinals?

Will the conclave make the epochal break with the European monopoly and pick a cardinal from Latin America or Africa? The Catholic Church is booming in the Southern Hemisphere, as opposed to Europe and North America, where it is on life-support or barely treading water.

Electing A New Pope Draws on Tradition and Secrecy

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Reception of Pope Benedict XVI at Schloss Bellevue on September 22, 2012 in Berlin, Germany. vipflash / Shutterstock.com

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI will soon become the first pope to resign since 1415, short-circuiting many of the initial stages of electing a new pope. But the Vatican says the transition to a new papacy shouldn’t be all that different from normal.

Of course, the traditional rituals associated with confirming the death of a pope and planning his funeral will not be necessary. But the process outlined below, rife with secrecy and tradition, will largely follow centuries-old protocol.

What Happens Next at the Vatican

Andreas SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images

White smoke at the Vatican in 2005, signaling the election of Cardinal Ratzinger. Andreas SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images

Following is a brief explanation of the process used in a conclave to elect a new pope.

Q: Who governs the church until a new pope is elected?

A: Day-to-day operations are handled by the Vatican curia, the central bureaucracy. All prelates who head Vatican agencies resign after the death or resignation of a pope. Provisions are made to oversee the papal household, the spiritual needs of Romans and to grant absolutions.

Q: What does the word “conclave” mean?

A: The word comes from the Latin, “with a key,” referring to the tradition of locking the doors until cardinals elect a winner.

Q: Who is eligible to be elected pope?

A: Technically, any baptized male Catholic is eligible, provided he is not married and in good standing with the church. Since 1378, however, new popes have come from within the College of Cardinals.

Vatican: 'We Should Have a New Pope by Easter'

RNS photo courtesy Paul Haring/Catholic News Service

Pope Benedict XVI leaves Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. RNS photo courtesy Paul Haring/Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — In a move that took the world by surprise, Pope Benedict XVI announced on Monday that he will become the first pope in 600 years to resign, with plans to step down on 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,” Benedict told cardinals as they gathered in Rome for the proclamation of new saints.

Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said preparations for the conclave that will elect Benedict’s successor are in the early stages.

A papal election could be expected “within 10 to 15 days,” he said. “We should have a new pope by Easter.”

Pope Benedict XVI Announces Resignation

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Pope Benedict XVI at a January Vespers service. Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Pope Benedict XVI announced today he will step down on Feb. 28, citing his advanced age. The head of the Catholic Church is 85 years old. Below is the text of his announcement.

Dear Brothers,

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. 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. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark 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. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

Pope Benedict XVI Says Lack of ‘Faith’ Could Be Used in Marriage Annulments

RNS photo by Paul Haring/Catholic News Service

Pope Benedict XVI leaves Christmas Eve Mass. RNS photo by Paul Haring/Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI has asked the Vatican’s highest appeals court to consider reviewing church rules on marriage annulments — a statement that may signal a change in tone more than a change in substance.

Speaking on Jan. 26 to the members of the tribunal of the Roman Rota, Benedict said that “lack of faith” on the part of the spouses can affect the validity of a marriage.

While the Catholic Church forbids remarried divorcees from taking Communion, church tribunals can declare a marriage void if it can be demonstrated that some key elements — such as a commitment to have children — were missing in the first place.

Vatican: Calling Jews ‘Enemies’ of the Church Is Unacceptable

RNS photo by Paul Haring/Catholic News Service

Pope Benedict XVI leaves Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Dec. 24. RNS photo by Paul Haring/Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican reaffirmed its commitment to dialogue with Jews on Monday after the head of a traditionalist breakaway group called them “enemies of the Church.”

The Vatican chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said that it was “meaningless” and “unacceptable” to label Jews as “enemies” of the Catholic Church.

“Both Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor John Paul II personally engaged in dialogue with Jews,” he said. As a sign of their commitment, Lombardi noted the two popes’ visits to Jerusalem’s Western Wall, Judaism’s most sacred site, and to synagogues in Rome and elsewhere.

Activists Mobilize Around White House’s Catholic ‘Hate Group’ Petition

We The People petition

We The People petition

The White House’s novel online system for allowing citizens to petition the administration on any number of causes has led to various unintended consequences: petitions to secede from the U.S. following President Obama’s re-election; a petition for Vice President Joe Biden to star in a reality show; and a petition for the government to disclose its secret archives on extraterrestrials.

Now there is a petition to designate the Roman Catholic Church as a hate group for its opposition to gay rights, and it may wind up generating almost as many press releases as signatures.

The “We the People” petition was filed on Christmas Day and was prompted by Pope Benedict XVI’s Dec. 21 year-end address to Vatican administrators in which he denounced gay marriage as a threat to Western civilization.

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