In an unexpected move Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world Monday by announcing he will resign at the end of this month, and saying he does not have the strength to deal with his ministry. He made the announcement in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals saying:
"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," he told the cardinals.
"I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiriual nature, must be carried out not only by words and deeds but no less with prayer and suffering.
While his abdication has shocked many, but abuse sufferers in Ireland have welcomed the news. The Telegraph UK reports:
"This pope had a great opportunity to finally address the decades of abuse in the church but at the end of the day he did nothing but promise everything and in the end he ultimately delivered nothing," John Kelly, of the Survivors of Child Abuse support group, told AFP. "We asked the pope for sanctions against the religious orders who committed the abuse and the religious leaders in Ireland who allowed this to happen but to our dismay nothing has happened," Kelly added.
Kelly had lived during his childhood in a Catholic run institution and recalled being flogged by the priests. Coupled with reports of admission by the nation of Ireland that the infamous Catholic Magdalene Laundries made famous in the movie "The Magdalene Sisters," where thousands of women who were deemed "flirtatious" or who were unwed mothers were sent without being told when they could leave:
These women in Ireland spent their lives working for nothing under extremely abusive conditions had been supported by the state (although the government of Ireland stopped short of apologizing to the many female victims who had lived and died in those laundries). The Pope was beset by continuous reports of sexual abuse by priests around the world. Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi claimed that even his inner circle had been unaware that Pope Benedict intended to quit.
The last time a pope resigned was over 600 years ago. Pope Celestine V resigned in 1294 after being in power only five months. His resignation was known as the Great Refusal and was condemned by the poet Dante in the "Divine Comedy" during Dante's storied journey to hell:
And I, who looked again, beheld a banner,
Which, whirling round, ran on so rapidly,
That of all pause it seemed to me indignant;
And after it there came so long a train
Of people, that I ne'er would have believed
That ever Death so many had undone.
When some among them I had recognised,
I looked, and I beheld the shade of him
Who made through cowardice the great refusal.
Forthwith I comprehended, and was certain,
That this the sect was of the caitiff wretches
Hateful to God and to his enemies.
The Chicago Tribune reports that Ratzinger was formerly known as "Gods Rottweiler," and that there was no pressure for him to resign:
Before he was elected Pope, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was known by such critical epithets as "God's rottweiler" because of his stern stand on theological issues.
But after several years into his new job Benedict showed that he not only did not bite but barely even barked.
In recent months, the pope has looked increasingly frail in public, sometimes being helped to walk by those around him.
Lombardi ruled out depression or uncertainty as being behind the resignation, saying the move was not due to any specific illness, just advancing age.
The Pope had shown "great courage, determination" aware of the "great problems the church faces today", he said, adding the timing may have reflected the Pope's desire to avoid the exhausting rush of Easter engagements.
There was no outside pressure and Benedict took his "personal decision" in the last few months, he added.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said that the Pope would be "missed by millions."