From THE WALL STREET JOURNAL:
By Alessandra Galloni, Liam Moloney and Stacy Meichtry | Updated February 11, 2013, 10:49 a.m. ET
VATICAN CITY— Pope Benedict XVI said Monday he planned to step down at the end of this month because of his deteriorating physical strength, a move that hasn’t happened in the Roman Catholic Church in centuries and that is likely to pave the way for a new pontiff by Easter.
In a speech in Latin to cardinals, the 85-year-old German pontiff, who has been in office since April 2005, said that leading the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics was a job that required strength of both mind and body. But the pope said his strength had “deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”
A papal spokesman added during a briefing with reporters that Pope Benedict had been thinking about the move for some time, saying it wasn’t due to an illness. Father Lombardi, the spokesman, said the pope would retire to a life of prayer and writing. He also said the pontiff had “no fear” of any potential schism in the church as a consequence of the pope’s resignation.
The resignation, which the Vatican said would take place as of 8 p.m. on Feb. 28, will give way to a conclave, a gathering of cardinals who will elect the new pope. Normally, after a pope dies, there is a nine-day mourning period before the selection his successor. This time, the process can begin right away, said Greg Burke, the Vatican’s media adviser. “This means we’ll have a new pope by Easter,” he added. The holiday falls on March 31 this year.
Your Editor sees this as a very responsible move on the part of His Holiness,’ a move his predecessor, Pope John Paul II should have contemplated, and taken, as his struggles with Parkinson’s Disease became so great. However, the JOURNAL article continues to note the tradition in the Vatican that the Pope does not resign for reasons of health, because that would open the door to pressuring the pontiff to resign for reasons other than health. Pope Paul VI had considered resignation during the 1970s, but decided against it for that reason.
Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands has already taken the decision to abdicate, after 30 years on the throne, another wise decision when age and health are factors. Her Majesty does not have the duties the pontiff faces, and Queen Elizabeth II, who will turn 87 years old this April, might reasonably be considering such a decision. Arguing against that would be the length of her reign — currently only two years less than that of the longest reigning British monarch, the 63 years of Queen Victoria, whose record she might wish to exceed, or the doofus nature of Charles, the Prince of Wales and heir apparent. And abdication has a more negative connotation in the United Kingdom, considering that of King Edward VIII.
Your Editor personally approves of the papacy of Benedict XVI, and would not wish to see him resign were he physically able to continue with his duties, but it is the height of responsibility to realize when it is time to leave.