Pope resigning on Feb. 28, citing ill health

Updated 13 February 2013
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Pope resigning on Feb. 28, citing ill health

VATICAN CITY: Pope Benedict XVI said Monday he lacks the strength to fulfill his duties and on Feb. 28 will become the first pontiff in 600 years to resign. The announcement sets the stage for a conclave in March to elect a new leader for world’s 1 billion Catholics.
The 85-year-old pope announced the bombshell in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals, surprising even his closest collaborators, even though Benedict had made clear in the past he would step down if he became too old or infirm to do the job.
Benedict called his choice “a decision of great importance for the life of the church.”
Indeed, the move allows the Vatican to hold a conclave before Easter to elect a new pope, since the traditional mourning time that would follow the death of a pope doesn’t have to be observed.
It will also allow Benedict to hold great sway over the choice of his successor. He has already hand-picked the bulk of the College of Cardinals — the princes of the church who will elect the next pope — to guarantee his conservative legacy and ensure an orthodox future for the church.
There are several papal contenders in the wings, but no obvious front-runner — the same situation when Benedict was elected pontiff in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II.
The Vatican stressed that no specific medical condition prompted Benedict’s decision, but in recent years, the pope has slowed down significantly, cutting back his foreign travel and limiting his audiences. He now goes to and from the altar in St. Peter’s Basilica on a moving platform, to spare him the long walk down the aisle. Occasionally he uses a cane.
His 89-year-old brother, Georg Ratzinger, said doctors had recently advised the pope not to take any more trans-Atlantic trips.
“His age is weighing on him,” Ratzinger told the dpa news agency. “At this age my brother wants more rest.”
Benedict emphasized that carrying out the duties of being pope — the leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics worldwide — requires “both strength of mind and body.”
“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.
“In order to govern the bark of St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary — strengths which in the last few months, have deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me,” he said.
Popes are allowed to resign; church law specifies only that the resignation be “freely made and properly manifested.” But only a handful have done it.
The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415 in a deal to end the Great Western Schism among competing papal claimants. The most famous resignation was Pope Celestine V in 1294; Dante placed him in hell for it.
When Benedict was elected at age 78, he was the oldest pope chosen in nearly 300 years. At the time, he has already been planning to retire as the Vatican’s chief orthodoxy watchdog to spend his final years writing in the “peace and quiet” of his native Bavaria.
On Monday, Benedict said he would serve the church for the remainder of his days “through a life dedicated to prayer.” The Vatican said immediately after his resignation, Benedict would go to Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer retreat south of Rome, and then would live in a cloistered monastery.
Contenders to be his successor include Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, the archbishop of Vienna, and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Canadian head of the Vatican’s office for bishops.
Longshots include Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York. Although Dolan is popular and backs the pope’s conservative line, the general thinking is that the Catholic Church doesn’t need a pope from a “superpower.”
Given half of the world’s Catholics live in the global south, there will once again be arguments for a pope to come from the developing world.
Cardinal Antonio Tagle, the archbishop of Manila, has impressed many Vatican watchers, but at 56 and having only been named a cardinal last year, he is considered too young.
Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson of Ghana is one of the highest-ranking African cardinals at the Vatican, currently heading the Vatican’s office for justice and peace, but he’s something of a wild card.
All cardinals under age 80 are allowed to vote in the conclave, the secret meeting held in the Sistine Chapel where cardinals cast ballots to elect a new pope. As per tradition, the ballots are burned after each voting round; black smoke that snakes out of the chimney means no pope has been chosen, while white smoke means a pope has been elected.
The pontiff had been due to attend World Youth Day in July in Rio de Janeiro; by then his successor will have been named and will presumably make the trip.
Benedict himself raised the possibility of resigning if he were simply too old or sick to continue on, when he was interviewed in 2010 for the book “Light of the World.”
“If a pope clearly realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right, and under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign,” Benedict said.
The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had an intimate view as Pope John Paul II, with whom he had worked closely for nearly a quarter-century, suffered through the debilitating end of his papacy.
The announcement took the Vatican — and the rest of the world — by surprise.
Several cardinals on Monday didn’t even understand what Benedict had said during the consistory, said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman said. Others who did were stunned.
“All the cardinals remained shocked and were looking at each other,” said Monsignor Oscar Sanchez of Mexico who was in the room when Benedict made his announcement.
Benedict was born April 16, 1927 in Marktl Am Inn, in Bavaria, but his father, a policeman, moved frequently and the family left when he was 2.
In his memoirs, Benedict dealt what could have been a source of controversy had it been kept secret — that he was enlisted in the Nazi youth movement against his will when he was 14 in 1941, when membership was compulsory. He said he was soon let out because of his studies for the priesthood. Two years later he was drafted into a Nazi anti-aircraft unit as a helper. He deserted the German army in April 1945, the waning days of the war.
He called it prophetic that a German followed a Polish pope — with both men coming from such different sides of World War II.
Benedict was ordained, along with his brother, in 1951. After spending several years teaching theology in Germany, he was appointed bishop of Munich in 1977 and elevated to cardinal three months later by Pope Paul VI.
John Paul named him leader of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1981 and he took up his post a year later. Following John Paul’s death in 2005, he was elected pope April 19 in one of the fastest conclaves in history, just about 24 hours after the voting began.
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Daniela Petroff contributed from Vatican City.


First female CIA director Gina Haspel is sworn in

Updated 19 min 25 sec ago
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First female CIA director Gina Haspel is sworn in

  • Gina Haspel was confirmed by the Senate last week in a 54-45 vote, despite the deep reservations of some lawmakers about her past involvement in the torture of terror suspects in the post-9/11 era.
  • Trump paid tribute to Haspel as “a very special person” who was uniquely qualified to lead “the most elite intelligence professionals on the planet Earth.”

WASHINGTON: Veteran CIA officer Gina Haspel was sworn in as the agency’s first female director Monday, hailing the “heroines” who had gone before her and expressing hope she and her team would be “role models.”
The 61-year-old Haspel, a Russia specialist who spent her career in the Central Intelligence Agency’s clandestine service, takes over from Mike Pompeo, whom Trump recently made his secretary of state.
Haspel was confirmed by the Senate last week in a 54-45 vote, despite the deep reservations of some lawmakers about her past involvement in the torture of terror suspects in the post-9/11 era.
“I stand on the shoulders of heroines who never sought public acclaim, but served as inspirations to the generations that came after them,” Haspel said after being sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence and introduced by President Donald Trump.
“I would not be standing before you today if not for the remarkable courage and dedication displayed by generations” of women officers, she said at CIA headquarters in Virginia.
“In roles both large and small,” Haspel said they “challenged stereotypes, broke down barriers and opened doors for the rest of us.”
“I am deeply indebted to them and I am extremely proud to follow in their footsteps and to carry on their extraordinary legacy.”
Haspel added: “I want the current CIA leadership team to be role models and mentors for our next generation of officers.”
She joked about her bruising confirmation hearing, which dug into her work overseeing a secret “black site” prison in Thailand.
It was there that Al-Qaeda suspects Abu Zubaydah and Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri were water-boarded, an interrogation technique subsequently condemned as torture.
“It has been nearly 50 years since an operations officer rose up through the ranks to become the director and after the experience of the last two months, I think I know why that is,” she told officers and invited guests.
In his introductory remarks, Trump paid tribute to Haspel as “a very special person” who was uniquely qualified to lead “the most elite intelligence professionals on the planet Earth.”
“Our enemies will take note: Gina is tough. She is strong. And when it comes to defending America, Gina will never, ever back down,” Trump said.
The president largely avoided the controversies swirling around his presidency, including his allegations, just hours earlier, that former CIA director John Brennan was behind the investigation into his campaign’s dealings.
Trump however angered some former CIA officers with his decision to thank “courageous” Congressman Devin Nunes.
A Trump supporter, Nunes has demanded documents about the investigation into Team Trump, but which the intelligence community says risks exposing sources.
Former intelligence officer David Priess said Trump’s comment about Nunes was “disgusting.”
“I can’t imagine this comment goes over well-but, unlike the president, IC officials are respectful enough not to make a scene,” Priess said.