La Prensa América presents:

What Does this Mean for the Church?


By Katia Lopez-Hodoyan 
Reporting from Rome

photo
Headline and photo from an Italian paper capturing the moment.

It was an announcement that shocked the world and even some of Benedict XVI’s closest collaborators.

As a Vatican correspondent, I simply didn’t believe it at first. I thought the news agency that broke the story, had its website hacked. A Papal resignation was simply unheard of in modern times, unfathomable, not an option. But it was an option and it has been for centuries. Even though a Pope, in theory and under Canon Law can resign, it was simply unimaginable. An hour after Benedict XVI broke the news to the world, on Monday February 11th, the world media came running to the Vatican. The one question that came up over and over again, in different languages, was: Why? The next one, was ‘what happens now?’

The straight out answer is a Papal election, known as ‘Conclave,’ but the answer to the bigger picture is still unknown. What will the Church look for, in its next leader? Age will certainly be a factor, especially now, that Benedict XVI, 85, admitted that he simply does not have the physical strength to carry out the office as needed.

“To govern…both strength of mind and body are necessary,” said the Pope in Latin, as shocked cardinals looked at each other. “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.”

Some have criticized the Pope for his decision, but others have praised him, describing it as humble and sincere. Since the Holy See is a religious entity, most people think of it only as such. But, people often forget that it’s also a country, the smallest country in the world in fact. That being said, the Vatican, specifically the Pope, must also carry out diplomatic activities, which include receiving heads of state, traveling, accords, meetings, etc…In the last couple of years, the Pope traveled to Madrid, Mexico, Cuba, Africa and Lebanon to name a few. He was scheduled to go to Brazil in July. Since he announced his resignation, the Vatican said that it was after the Pope’s trip to Mexico and Cuba that he began to question his physical ability to carry out the Papal office.

When Giovanna Chirri heard the story, directly from the Pope, her heart sank. As a journalist for Italian news agency ANSA, she was the reporter who broke the story to the world. She was covering the meeting, where the Pope was to the announce the canonization of future saints, among them Latin American nuns. She had no idea though, that she was about to hear the Pope’s resignation as well.

“When I heard the news, I got scared, I felt worried and my legs started shaking,” said Chirri. “I was sitting there, right in front of the computer and I knew I had to write the story immediately. If you looked around and saw the people who were with the Pope, cardinals, bishops, members of the papal household, everyone was completely shocked, stunned, they didn’t move a muscle. There was an intense silence.”

She wrote a single sentence. Within minutes, the news spread like wildfire.

There are a total of 209 cardinals, but because of age limits only 118, who are young-er than 80, are eligible to vote in this coming conclave. The Pope plans to resign on February 28th at 8:00 pm, so at that time, the so called ‘Sede Vacante’ period, which translates to ‘Vacant Throne,’ will begin. Citing Canon Law, the Vatican’s spokesperson, Federico Lombardi, says the conclave must begin at the earliest on the 15th of March, or at the latest on the 20th.

“When it comes to the conclave,” said Lombardi, “The constitution states that once the ‘Sede Vacante’ period begins, and cardinals arrive to Rome, they must first meet to discuss the state of the Church.”

Mexican Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, 80, took part in the 2005 conclave that elected Benedict XVI. “The Pope is resigning because he physically can’t carry out all the responsibilities that come with being Pope,” said Barragán. So that being said, we need someone who has the qualities, Benedict XVI had before he started losing strength. That, humanly speaking, will be very difficult.”

Since announcing his resignation, the Pope said he plans to carry out his full schedule that was already planned months ahead. With the days of his Papacy literally numbered, he has thanked pilgrims, the clergy and the Church as a whole, as Catholics prepare for this next phase.

Once his term is over, Benedict XVI will live in the city of Castel Gandolfo, in the Vatican’s summer residence, which is about an hour away from Rome. He will then come back to the Vatican and live in a monastery, along with his current Papal household team. He has said though, that once he retires, he does not plan to interject or impose his recommendations to the next Papacy.

In this week’s general audience with pilgrims, the Pope said: “In the last few days, which have been difficult for me, I have almost physically felt the power of your prayers. Please continue to pray for me, the Church and the future Pope. Don’t worry, God will guide us.”

3 comments on “What Does this Mean for the Church?

[…] What Does this Mean for the Church?By Katia Lopez-Hodoyan Reporting from RomeIt was an announcement that shocked the world and even some of Benedict XVI’s closest collaborators.As a Vatican correspondent, I simply didn’t believe it at first. I thought the news agency that broke the story, had its website hacked. A Papal resignation was simply unheard of in modern times, unfathomable, not an option. But it was an option and it has been for centuries. Even though a Pope, in theory and under Canon Law can resign, it was simply unimaginable. An hour after Benedict XVI broke the news to the world, on Monday February 11th, the world media came running to the Vatican. The one question that came up over and over again, in different languages, was: Why? The next one, was ‘what happens now?’ […]

[…] What Does this Mean for the Church?By Katia Lopez-Hodoyan Reporting from RomeIt was an announcement that shocked the world and even some of Benedict XVI’s closest collaborators.As a Vatican correspondent, I simply didn’t believe it at first. I thought the news agency that broke the story, had its website hacked. A Papal resignation was simply unheard of in modern times, unfathomable, not an option. But it was an option and it has been for centuries. Even though a Pope, in theory and under Canon Law can resign, it was simply unimaginable. An hour after Benedict XVI broke the news to the world, on Monday February 11th, the world media came running to the Vatican. The one question that came up over and over again, in different languages, was: Why? The next one, was ‘what happens now?’ […]

[…] What Does this Mean for the Church?By Katia Lopez-Hodoyan Reporting from RomeIt was an announcement that shocked the world and even some of Benedict XVI’s closest collaborators.As a Vatican correspondent, I simply didn’t believe it at first. I thought the news agency that broke the story, had its website hacked. A Papal resignation was simply unheard of in modern times, unfathomable, not an option. But it was an option and it has been for centuries. Even though a Pope, in theory and under Canon Law can resign, it was simply unimaginable. An hour after Benedict XVI broke the news to the world, on Monday February 11th, the world media came running to the Vatican. The one question that came up over and over again, in different languages, was: Why? The next one, was ‘what happens now?’ […]

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