Pope Benedict urges Catholic Church leaders to put aside rivalries

February 14, 2013

(Priests stand in a queue in front of St. Peter Basilica before Pope Benedict XVI’s special audience with priests of the Diocese of Rome in Paul VI’s hall at the Vatican February 14, 2013. REUTERS/ Alessandro Bianchi )

With passing phrases and striking images, Pope Benedict is assembling a last testament to his Roman Catholic Church, urging its leaders to put aside their rivalries and think only of the unity of the faith.

The message, slipped into statements both before and after his shock resignation announcement on Monday, reads like a veiled rebuke to leading cardinals jockeying for influence in the upcoming conclave and in the papacy that it will produce.

His vague comments could also be hints that it was internal Vatican power struggles, such as those which led to the Vatileaks scandal involving Benedict’s butler last year, that prompted him to take the almost unprecedented step of quitting the leadership of the world’s largest church.

Benedict, 85, will step down on February 28, triggering a new conclave – the closed-door papal election – in mid-March with no discernible front runner and several factions already putting forward their ideas for who or what the new pontiff should be.

The German pope urged the faithful on Wednesday to “show the face of the Church and how that face is sometimes disfigured”.

“I am thinking particularly about sins against the unity of the Church, about divisions in the body of the Church,” he said.

“Overcoming individualism and rivalry is a humble sign,” he added during his last public Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Italian newspapers, whose Vatican watchers are weighing every word uttered by Benedict these days, seized on the terms “disfigured face” and “rivalry” as what the Milan daily Corriere della Sera called “signals hurled at the conclave”.

(Pope Benedict XVI (R) embraces Cardinal Angelo Sodano during a consistory at the Vatican February 11, 2013 where he announced his resignation. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano)

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