11 February 2013: Benedict XVI announced abdication

benedict xvi resignation abdicationOn this dark day in 2013, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he was to resign his office at Bishop of Rome.  He would step down on 28 February.

He announced to a hastily assembled consistory of Cardinals and others:

Dear Brothers,

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. 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. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with 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 barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, 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. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

From the Vatican, 10 February 2013


On this same day, 11 February, lightning struck St. Peter’s Basilica.

The photo from Agence France-Presse:

I’ll bet you remember where you were when you heard about this astonishing announcement.

I remember my reaction: “You gave up WHAT for Lent?”  Then I had Eggs Benedict for breakfast.

Seriously, I was pretty much floored.



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  1. papaefidelis says:

    My best friend, who is a learned and faithful priest, called me at 5:45 am (I’m a very early riser and had been up for hours). I was concerned when I saw his name on the caller ID, since we usually only speak in the evenings. “So what do you think of the news”, he asked. “What news?” I had been reading and doing housework and, for once, did not have the TV or computer on. “Papa Benedetto is going to resign!” My heart skipped a beat or five and I felt dizzy and flush, cold and clammy. I began to perspire, that old cold sweat of fear and trepidation. I knew he wasn’t joking about something like this but I hoped it was just another rumor, as in the past. “No,” he said, “It’s all over the media.” As I hung up, I felt nauseous, my head spinning. I recall how surreal it felt, as when a death in the family occurs. My mind was reeling. How could our Holy Father do this to us? What was next? Who was next? Could Burke be Pius XIII? That thought consoled me. The aftermath, of course, has led me to see that I had fallen victim to papalatry and, henceforth, my mind is focused on Christ and His truth, not on the vagaries of papal parentheses.

  2. Kerry says:

    Ahem, (Barry Sotero), can you take a hint?

  3. Sandy says:

    I certainly do remember the moment I heard the news. It was morning on the West coast and our day was getting under way. My husband heard the announcement on the radio and told me. I told him that Popes don’t do that!! There were tears, disbelief; as you say Father, “floored”! I still miss Papa Benedict.

  4. JesusFreak84 says:

    I’d just woken up and was staring cross-eyed (no pun intended,) at a computer I’d built myself a few months ago… Suddenly, I was awake with ZERO caffeine! T_T

  5. TNCath says:

    I heard it on the radio as I was getting out of bed. The announcement left me rather numb and then I became gravely concerned about what was going to happen next. Well, now we know…

  6. benedictgal says:

    I still weep every day about this. For me, this has been a three-year Lent. Thank you for posting the link for the bumper sticker, Father! My old one is very faded and I ordered two more. I still pray for Benedict every day.

  7. Joseph-Mary says:

    A sad bad day. And the lightening hitting the dome…..

  8. I vividly remember that day and I had that bumper sticker on my car (until Pope Benedict faded out and looked like a ghost!) Truly a shocking day. I wonder if it will be precedent setting.

  9. lairdangusmcangus says:

    I had a flashback to my reading of Windswept House, in which Fr. Malachi Martin detailed the machinations of the satanic/masonic faction within the Roman curia to attempt a forced resignation on John Paul II.

    My first thought was: “They missed their window. This is a hollow victory for them.”

    The old saint, John Paul II, died in office having modeled a life of Christian suffering and divine mercy that touched millions of people around the world.

    Benedict XVI had already promulgated Ecclesia Dei [Summorum Pontificum]
    and set in motion the process that will lead, eventually, to a restoration of the liturgy. He is also rumored to have performed an exorcism on the little chapel of St. Paul inside the Vatican. The 100 years of availing time for the Devil to wreak havoc within the Church had expired.

    Future generations of Catholics, who will not be so caught up in personality and media imagery, will revere this pope for his sacrifices and accomplishments. I believe that he and JPII likely fulfilled the mandate of Our Lady at Fatima and, therefore, may have spared us far graver chastisements than what we have already experienced.

    Thank you Benedict XVI!!!! We love you.

  10. thomas tucker says:

    Having seen him at a Wednesday audience not too long before that, I can’t say that I was suprised. He looked so frail and unhealthy at that audience that I actually wondered how long he might have to live. I wonder how often lightning strikes the dome of Saint Peter’s- does anyone know?

  11. organistjason says:

    The faithful have had to live with the “unintended consequences” of that decision, everyday, for the past three years. The day “Peter” left the care of the flock he vowed to shepherd. St. Pope John Paul II taught us to value life from it’s conception to it’s natural end. St. Pope JP II taught us how to live, lead and die. One would have thought that great lesson would have been taken to heart by one of his closest collaborators. Benedict XVI left the faithful. The ensuing “Unintended Consequences,” stem directly from the decision announced, three years ago. Three years, that have felt like Forty years.

  12. Ceile De says:

    We were in Rome when we heard and ran to Saint Peter’s. We were on the squard during the lightning storm but did not see the iconic sight in your photo. It still feels like Rome has been sacked and the wolves have won but I recall Our Lord’s promise and, even though I never thought all defences before it would fail, take comfort in that and the knowledge that to give in to despair is a mortal sin. May God protect and bless Pope Benedict XVI.

  13. Benedict Joseph says:

    organistjason has said it far more politely than I can manage three years into this misery. Unfortunately, as I look back, my rose colored glasses shattered, my attempts to look on this without bitterness, I can only say I believe we were abandoned and betrayed — and only by Pope Benedict (whom I still hold in respect) but by a legion of ecclesiastics. There is no excuse for what we are enduring.

  14. amont says:

    I heard the news whilst getting ready for work and felt dismayed and uncertain. Subsequently I have felt abandoned, betrayed and horrified at almost every turn. However; it is God’s Church and all things are in his hands. I pray every day that if Pope Francis will remain loyal to the teachings, traditions and magisterium – but if not – that God will quickly send us a Pontiff who will be.

  15. When Pope Benedict venerated the tomb of St. Celestine V, leaving his pallium behind, that seems to me a clear hint that he intended to abdicate, or at least that he was contemplating abdicating. As the burdens of age and health problems mounted, he must have looked around and seen that he was surrounded by wolves, with no Cardinal Ratzinger to back him up like his predecessor had. I think the Church has taken a big hit since then, but perhaps it would have been a lot worse if the damage had been done under an ailing, failing Pope Benedict, and in his name.

    My first thought when I read the news was: I didn’t pray for him enough. Not that I am assuming all the blame for his abdication; but to the extent it is my duty to pray for the Pope, I failed, and so as a member of the Body of Christ, I am part of the problem.

  16. PostCatholic says:

    “You’re giving up what for Lent?”

  17. PostCatholic says:

    Sigh. Gosh I’m so dangerous I might say the same thing as you.

  18. Mojoron says:

    God, I miss XVI.

  19. Geoffrey says:

    I was sound asleep on the west coast and my mother telephoned me, telling me what was being reported in the news. She was pretty emotional. I think my heart stopped until I was able to turn on the television. And there it was. I was stunned. Floored. Flabbergasted. Depressed.

    I recall watching his last public Mass that Ash Wednesday. The applause at the end which moved many there to tears, and even me in my living room. It was then and there that I decided to do all I could to continue Benedict XVI’s noble vision of reforming the sacred liturgy. To that end, I was instituted an acolyte last February, and just this week I was asked by my pastor (not a liturgical traditionalist) to be the first-ever MC at my parish’s Triduum liturgies. I hope to finally begin learning to serve Mass in the Extraordinary Form this year.

    It is a struggle here on the “left” coast, but I carefully choose my battles. Fight we will. I recall reading somewhere that Benedict XVI is the “father” of this new liturgical movement, and we are his “children”. To work! Let us make our father proud.

  20. I was at 8 AM Mass at St. Vincent Ferrer in Manhattan. It was definitely a surprise to me, and I will not forget the day.

  21. otsowalo says:

    Let’s pray for both Popes.

    Let’s also pray that Pope Francis will be given the strength and wisdom, so that when his time comes (whether he be called by God to step down or from this life), he will stand under the standard of Christ.

    Oremus Pro Tam Ponteficie.

  22. majuscule says:

    I don’t remember exactly where I was when I heard. Undoubtedly I was online because I watched the video of the announcement over and over. There was one with added comments from Cardinal Arinze that I found consoling.

    I was also interested in the man who was always beside the Holy Father. With a little research I learned he was Msgr. Guido Marini (who himself offers the Usus Antiquior). I take consolation in the fact that he is still the Papal MC under Pope Francis.

    It was only a month or so before the announcement that discovered a TLM that I could attend several times a week. I take consolation in that.

  23. kurtmasur says:

    I learned the news from a message on Viber that a priest friend sent me. He being somewhere in the center with regards to liturgy (actually, he’s the type who wishes that Latin be “cancelled” from the Church), he seemed quite happy in his message. Ever since then, I have decided to take matters into my own hands and started to evangelize by pushing to get Gregorian chant sung in his own masses, and he’s actually had a positive response towards it! I do admit that if Benedict hadn’t resigned, I (and many others) would probably be doing nothing to promote the TLM, the Reform of the Reform, or even just Gregorian chant. In fact, I sometimes wonder if Benedict, being the genius that he is, didn’t plan this out carefully, knowing that by abruptly resigning, traditionally-minded people like us would get on the defensive and begin evangelizing.

    Anyways, ever since that day that I learned the news, I felt very shocked, in disbelief, and eventually sad. At 20h on 28 February 2013 (the time he stopped being pope), I even shed tears because at that moment it really hit me what it was all supposed to mean. Eventually, it was a roller-coaster ride when Francis was elected and hearing the “carnival” comment regarding the mozzetta. It personally affected my mood and went through long periods of sadness. Now I am resigned to his style and way of being. I always tell myself that things could be worse (it’s especially scary to think that some heretical cardinal from the G8 advisors could have been elected instead of Francis). It’s also striking that Benedict’s resignation, along with Francis’ election happened in Lent, so I take it as a symbolic penitential gesture. On the hand, Benedict’s papacy began during Easter in 2005, so it is no wonder that it was a time of a lot of joy.

    But going back to Benedict, if he planned his resignation such that people in the traditional side of Catholicism would be provoked into mobilizing and evangelizing, it has certainly worked…

  24. anna 6 says:

    That day was a real heartbreak for me. I had learned so much from Benedict XVI during his brief but profoundly important papacy and developed deep affection for this sweet and holy man. His extraordinary writings, homilies and encyclicals are a treasure that continue to move me deeply. Hopefully, those of us who were blessed to be paying attention during those 8 years will share what we have learned with future generations of religious and laity.
    I pray that the Pope Emeritus has good health and can continue to be an inspiration and help for his successor.
    Thank you Fr. Z. for reminding us of the sad anniversary.

  25. kiwiinamerica says:

    “Pray for me that I may not flee for fear of the wolves.”

    Pope Benedict XVI, Mass of Inauguration, St Peter’s Basilica, April 24, 2005

  26. Yosef says:

    I do remember. I was just waking up and my wife told me. I was seized with sadness, and at least wept on the inside.

  27. HighMass says:

    An early morning phone call, being told our Holy Father was resigning. Tears Tears and More Tears…………He will always be our Pope, Such a Great Pontiff…….

    I Think of Him every day and pray he is well. can’t help but think he was forced out……all the signs are there.

    God BLess You Holy Father, We will always Love You.

  28. Adam Welp says:

    I remember it like it was yesterday. I was asleep in bed and was startled by a news alert that came over my phone. I was more then half asleep as I read it and quickly ran downstairs to the computer for confirmation. I cried several times that day.

  29. Suburbanbanshee says:

    I still feel very sad about it; but I also think it was a good thing for a pope to exercise his right to abdicate, so that the right would not be lost. To be old, blind, deaf, and having people do things behind your back instead of being able to trust them — that’s not being able to protect your sheep from the wolves, either.

    Pope John Paul II had Ratzinger and others in the Curia to keep him informed, even when he was very sick and unable to move; he was able to rule through them. Pope Benedict XVI only had his immediate staff, and one of them got sucked into the craziness, too. (That butler.) All sorts of crucial initiatives were messed with, and thus blocked. A lot of independent power centers seem to have been setting up for themselves.

    Pope Francis may or may not be the right choice, but he has definitely gotten rid of the power that had been gathering around those independent power centers (which is why the people behind them are always sucking up to Pope Francis). A lot of Pope Benedict’s intended Curial reforms have been carried out by Pope Francis (albeit not in the same way Pope Benedict would have done it). So yeah, despite all the questionable liturgical and doctrinal stuff that has happened without him to ride herd, Pope Benedict did manage to get the organizational stuff more under control by resigning.

    (And frankly, a lot of the questionable doctrinal and liturgical stuff was already being pushed during the last days of Pope Benedict’s papacy; he wasn’t able to rein them in, because that was all part of the organizational shenanigans that were going on.)

  30. Persistant says:

    I was in the kitchen preparing to eat lunch before going to high school, and the TV was on in the living room, 12 noon news, when I heard the reporter say: “we’ve just received news from the Vatican…”. I was shocked. Boy, do I miss that man, so important for my faith!

  31. Geoffrey says:

    “Pope John Paul II had Ratzinger and others in the Curia to keep him informed, even when he was very sick and unable to move; he was able to rule through them. Pope Benedict XVI only had his immediate staff, and one of them got sucked into the craziness, too. (That butler.)”

    That is what my gut tells me was one of the reasons. St John Paul II had people he could trust (Ratzinger, Dziwisz, etc.). What with the butler-valet and his machinations, Benedict XVI probably could not trust those around him (Archbishop Ganswein excepted, of course).

  32. Lori Pieper says:

    Believe it or not, I was reading your blog, Father, when I found out. I had been pulling an all-nighter to meet a deadline, and at about 5:30 a.m. I decided to check your blog before turning in. I was reading the comments to a post on another subject, when a commenter broke in with the news. It was quite a shock. Your post with the announcement came a short time later. You can imagine how little I slept when I finally went to bed.

    The next few weeks were very exciting and disconcerting. I could never have expected another conclave just eight years after the last one. But the election of Pope Francis was an even greater shock. His papacy has been quite a ride. God bless both him and Pope Benedict.

    (This is my first comment for a very long time, since I’ve been suffering for over a year with a broken arm that refused to heal. I could only type with one hand, and it was exhausting. So no more blog comments — I had to save my hand for work. I had an operation about 3 months ago, and I am finally (almost) as good as new again — thanks be to God!)

  33. adriennep says:

    Given that my husband and I came in to the Catholic Church upon the sublime words of one Cardinal Ratzinger, and given that we will probably never in this world know the real reasons behind his awful resignation from the papacy, we are praying only for Heaven , where one might hear the full story from his lips and know God’s will from it. And most of all to Thank him. It is never too late to be praying for Pope Benedict. (I’m getting my bumper sticker even as we speak).

    It is a consolation we still have his body of work in print, if only our feeble minds could do them justice. After all, an author’s words are the surest way to his true heart and mind.

  34. Jenson71 says:

    So, how is Pope Benedict XVI doing these days? It would be great to get an update on what he’s doing; how is health is; projects he’s working on; etc.

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