Pope Benedict XVI resigning on Feb. 28, conclave in March
This the first resignation from a pontiff in 600 years; is an African pope in the offing?
ABOVE PHOTO: Ghanian Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson talks to journalists during a press conference at the Vatican, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2009, concluding a three-week Vatican meeting on the role of the Catholic Church in Africa which he had headed. Pope Benedict XVI tapped Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson to head the Vatican’s justice and peace office. The high-profile job cements Turkson’s reputation as a possible papal candidate. Turkson had told reporters three weeks before that there was no reason there couldn’t be a black pope, particularly after Barack Obama was elected U.S. president.
(AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday he would resign Feb. 28, the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years. The decision sets the stage for a conclave to elect a new pope before the end of March.
The 85-year-old pope announced his decision in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals Monday morning.
“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.
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 St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary — strengths which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately the ministry entrusted to me.”
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.
Benedict called his choice “a decision of great importance for the life of the church.”
The move sets the stage for the Vatican to hold a conclave to elect a new pope by mid-March, since the traditional mourning time that would follow the death of a pope doesn’t have to be observed.
There are several papal contenders in the wings, but no obvious front-runner as was the case when Benedict was elected pontiff in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II.
But the New York Daily News reported Monday that with Pope Benedict XVI’s bombshell announcement that he plans to step down, all eyes are on his potential successors, including one that may become the first black pope: Cardinal Peter Turkson.
The Roman Catholic Cardinal from Ghana, the current president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, is among the leading candidates to assume the title of pontiff as it is rumored the Vatican may look outside Europe for its next leader.
Turkson, 64, was born in Wassaw Nsuta in western Ghana on Oct. 11, 1948 to a Methodist mother and Catholic father. He entered the seminary as a child and moved to New York to study at St. Anthony-on-Hudson Seminary in Rensselaer before he was ordained as a priest in 1975.
In October 1992, Pope John Paul II named Turkson the Archbishop of Cape Coast, the former capital of Ghana. Turkson served as president of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference from 1997 to 2005 and during that time, was appointed the first-ever cardinal from Ghana.
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