Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Benedict XVI resigns, what happens next?

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 11th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The world is abuzz with the news that Pope Benedict XVI will resign, citing advanced age and infirmity. While this may be an emotional time for many Catholics, it is important to keep perspective. Knowing what happens next and understanding the power of Church tradition is important.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Pope Benedict issued a statement on Monday, saying that "that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry."

This is a sad occasion, but to be expected. No man, no matter how great or beloved, lives forever. It is a testament to the greatness of his work that so many people are inclined to tears following the announcement. However, the Holy Father has worked hard in spite of many infirmities. He has earned his rest and reward.

It is also a wise move, since a pope must be energetic and capable. A pope is one of the world's last true monarchs, presiding over an institution that's literally as ancient as the Roman Empire. With over one billion Catholics in the world, the Holy Father also presides over the largest church in all world history. To effectively govern, a pope must be in good health, physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Some speculate that Pope Benedict's inability to work for extended periods without considerable aid and without being distracted by his age and infirmity led him to conclude that the office is best filled by another member of the Church. However, it is a sign of his humility. 

Papal resignations are unprecedented in modern times, however Church law does permit resignation. To resign, a pope must make the decision freely, and he must be of sound mind. The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII in 1415. That resignation was intended to help end the "Great Western Schism" in which several members of the clergy, influenced by the political chaos of the period, claimed the right to be pope.

The resignation of a pope however, is not a crisis for the Church and should not be construed as such.

The Roman Catholic Church has endured a great many challenges in its long and illustrious history since the time of Jesus Christ. Many dangers and persecutions have befallen the church, yet at every turn, the Church has emerged as strong as ever.

The resignation of Benedict will not affect the operation, nor the well-being of the Church. At most, it could cause delays in handling high-level church business, however, that will not affect the individual parishioner, the ability to celebrate the Sacraments or do the work of the Church. 

On February, 28, at 8 p.m. local time in the Vatican, the Holy Father will end his papal reign. At that time, it will be necessary for the Church to elect a new pope.

The election process will begin the next morning with a special mass in the Sistine Chapel. That afternoon, the College of Cardinals will convene to elect the pope. Three cardinals will be chosen by lottery to collect votes, three more will count the ballots, and three will review the process.

The cardinals then receive a blank ballot, and each eligible cardinal, which are all those under the age of 80, writes the name of the person he chooses. The ballots are turned in one at a time, with each cardinal making a pledge to perform their duties with integrity.

This process may be repeated many times, until one favorite emerges and is elected by two-thirds, plus one vote of the college.

Each time a vote is tallied, the ballots are burned. Those burning the ballots will add a chemical to the papers if no pope has been chosen. The chemical makes the smoke turn black so that those watching outside can see as soon as a new pope has been chosen by the color of the smoke. White smoke indicates a new pope has been elected.

If the process repeats over an extended period of time, and no pope is chosen, then the cardinals will have their food and sleeping accommodations reduced in quality, until as which time they agree.

After his resignation, the, Benedict will return to being a Bishop. He may again be known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. We have not had a "Pope Emeritus", but we will soon will. He has said that he would devote the remainder of his life to prayer and will reside in a monastery in the Vatican.

Catholics would do well to remember, that the Church is fully prepared to handle circumstances such as these and that the long tradition of the Church and the guiding hand of God will ensure that the Church remains as a rock to all the faithful, as St. Peter, our first pope, was nearly two millennia ago.

The Spokesman for the Vatican Press Office, Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi issued these clarifying remarks:

"Pope Benedict XVI has given his resignation freely, in accordance with Canon 332 2 of the Code of Canon Law. Pope Benedict XVI will not take part in the Conclave for the election of his successor.

"Pope Benedict XVI will move to the Papal residence in Castel Gandolfo when his resignation shall become effective. When renovation work on the monastery of cloistered nuns inside the Vatican is complete, the Holy Father will move there for a period of prayer and reflection."

Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)