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“My conscience is clear,” Benedict says 8 years after retirement


Photo by Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP

Kathleen N. Hattrup - published on 03/01/21

The pope emeritus says that retiring was a difficult decision, and "I believe I did the right thing."

On the eighth anniversary of the day the historic resignation of Benedict XVI became effective, the pope emeritus assured that he made the decision with “full knowledge” and a clear conscience.

A reporter from Corriere della Sera, an Italian newspaper, was able to speak with the pope emeritus, who will turn 94 next month, at the Vatican monastery where he stays.

Benedict said:

It was a difficult decision. But I took it with full awareness, and I believe I did the right thing. Some of my somewhat ‘fanatical’ friends are still angry, and haven’t wanted to accept my choice. I’m thinking of the conspiracy theories that have followed it: Some have said it was due to the blow of the Vatileaks scandal; some, a plot by the gay lobby; some, the case of the conservative Lefebvrian theologian Richard Williamson. They don’t want to believe that it was a decision taken with full knowledge. But my conscience is clear.

The German pope’s decision has undoubtedly set a new course for the papacy, whereby failing health or advanced age made possible by the great advances of medical technology might lead a pope to resign.

In his footsteps

Pope Francis reiterated in an interview he gave earlier this week that he is open to making the same choice.

Francis said in an interview in La Nación by the journalist-doctor Nelson Castro, that he does think of death, but he doesn’t fear it. The 84-year-old pope said he imagines his death “as pope, either in office or emeritus. And in Rome.”

While the office of pope emeritus is something new in the 2,000-year history of the Church, Benedict XVI is adamant to maintain clarity. “‘There are not two Popes. There is only one Pope…’ he said in the Corriere della Sera interview, “weakly slapping the palm of his hand on the arm of the chair.”

The words chosen by the Italian newspaper to describe the health of the emeritus pontiff describe a real fatigue: “worn out by age,” “great physical fragility,” his “voice is a breath.” However, the journalist also emphasized that “the mind remains clear and sharp like [his] eyes.”

Read more:
Francis’ pontificate now longer than Benedict’s

Article updated after publication

Pope Benedict XVIPope Francis
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