VATICAN CITY | Reuters Mon Feb 11, 2013 6:02pm EST
(Reuters) - Pope Benedict stunned the Roman Catholic Church on Monday when he announced he would stand down, the first pope to do so in 700 years, saying he no longer had the mental and physical strength to carry on.
Church officials tried to relay a climate of calm confidence in the running of a 2,000-year-old institution, but the decision could lead to uncertainty in a Church already besieged by scandal for covering up sexual abuse of children by priests.
The soft-spoken German, who always maintained that he never wanted to be pope, was an uncompromising conservative on social and theological issues, fighting what he regarded as the increasing secularization of society.
It remains to be seen whether his successor will continue such battles or do more to bend with the times.
Despite his firm opposition to tolerance of homosexual acts, his eight year reign saw gay marriage accepted in many countries. He has staunchly resisted allowing women to be ordained as priests, and opposed embryonic stem cell research, although he retreated slightly from the position that condoms could never be used to fight AIDS.
He repeatedly apologized for the Church's failure to root out child abuse by priests, but critics said he did too little and the efforts failed to stop a rapid decline in Church attendance in the West, especially in his native Europe.
In addition to child sexual abuse crises, his papacy saw the Church rocked by Muslim anger after he compared Islam to violence. Jews were upset over rehabilitation of a Holocaust denier. During a scandal over the Church's business dealings, his butler was accused of leaking his private papers.
In an announcement read to cardinals in Latin, the universal language of the Church, the 85-year-old said: "Well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of St Peter ...
"As from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours (1900 GMT) the See of Rome, the See of St. Peter will be vacant and a conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is."
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I would favor a South American or perhaps an African cardinal, as the European Church is too filled with 'old boys', and cardinals with dubious theological views...The fastest growing branches of the Church are in these two areas...On the other hand, I would really support a simple Irish parish priest, who was close to his flock, unassuming, and wasn't adverse to drinking some whiskey or stout...We need a Pope for the 'common man'.
As far as Benedict, or Ratzinger, he has actually wielded consider power in the Church for decades, as he was in effect, John Paul's 'think tank; when it came to doctrinal issues.
I feel that Benedict was a target for the Jewish Sanhedrin since the beginning of his term, some due to his German background, some due to his membership in the 'Hitler Youth'. He has always caved in to the Jews on political matters, and has never taken a strong stand vis-a-vis them when they have butted their rather big noses into Church affairs, especially doctrinal issues (the father Williamson affair).
The Church is highly politicized in the wrong direction, and Benedict was negligent in his support of the Palestinians (there are thousands of Christian Palestinians in Gaza), yet visited Israel, went on the obligatory 'pilgrimage' to their 'wailng wall' and hob-nobbed with their corrupt cabal in the aftermath of the 'Cast Lead' mass murder. He has made some attempts to reach out to youth, especially in Europe, due to the declining interest in the Christian faith there given the rise of rampant 'consumerism' and 'globalism', which John Paul warned about.
The Roman Catholic Church has morphed into a 'neo-corporate entity' in many ways, and, in doing so, goes against Scripture and certainly the words of Jesus Christ. There is no place for corporatism in the Body of Christ, and neither is there room for political correctness in the Church, only a place for true compassion and understanding, through the grace of Christ and the Holy Spirit.
Perhaps a bishop from one of the more populous and poorer regions of the globe will start a process of repentance. Hopefully, the coming conclave to elect the new Pope will be informed by the true Holy Spirit of God and not some 'other' spirit which will only lead to desolation.
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