FaithWorld

Pope says in new book he would resign if incapacitated

November 22, 2010

pope nods

(Photo: Pope Benedict nods off during Mass in Malta April 18, 2010/Darrin Zammit Lupi)

Pope Benedict says in a new book that he would not hesitate to become the first pontiff to resign willingly in more than 700 years if he felt himself no longer able, “physically, psychologically and spiritually,” to lead the Church.

With startling candor, the 83-year-old Benedict floats the possibility of something Catholic Church officials do not like to talk about because it could open a doctrinal can of worms.

The book, called “Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Sign of the Times,” has so far made headlines for the pope’s cautious opening to the use of condoms to stop AIDS.

But the book, an interview with German Catholic journalist Peter Seewald, also contains many personal reflections on Benedict’s health, his daily routine and his future.

“Yes, if a pope clearly realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right and, under some circumstances, also an obligation, to resign,” he says.

The last pope to resign willingly was Celestine V in 1294 after reigning for only five months. Gregory XII reluctantly abdicated in 1415 to end a dispute with a rival claimant to the Holy See.

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