Shock resignation by traditional pope is fully in line with Church law

(Pope Benedict XVI (C) at a consistory at the Vatican February 11, 2013 before announcing his resignation. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano )

Pope Benedict would not be the meticulous theologian he has always been if he didn’t make sure even his shocking resignation – the first by a pontiff in over 700 years – was fully in line with Roman Catholic doctrine.

His announcement was so stunning that many Catholics will have instinctively asked if a pope is allowed to step down. For many of them, Pope John Paul’s long and very public agony before he died in 2005 is the iconic image of the end of a papacy.

But the Code of Canon Law, the legal corpus governing the Church, clearly provides for a papal resignation in its Canon 332. John Paul mentioned it in a detailed 1996 document that laid down the procedure for electing a new pope.

Benedict’s reputation as an orthodox and self-effacing pope ensures there will be few questions about the legality of the move and will reduce speculation that he plans to continue to play a decisive role behind the scenes.

With Benedict resigning, can Latin American claim papacy?

(Separate file photos of Roman Catholic clergy from Latin America cited as being possible candidates to be the next Pope, (L-R) Brazilian cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, Sao Paulo Archbishop Odilo Scherer, and Argentine cardinal Leonardo Sandri, taken in Rome between 2007 and 2012. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi)

With Pope Benedict’s stunning announcement that he will resign later this month, the time may be coming for the Roman Catholic Church to elect its first non-European leader and it could be a Latin American.

The region already represents 42 percent of the world’s 1.2 billion-strong Catholic population, the largest single block in the Church, compared to 25 percent in its European heartland.

German Catholic Church may back some morning-after pills after cardinal’s rethink

(Cologne cathedral on the Rhine River, August 18, 2005. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski )

Germany’s Catholic Church may approve some so-called morning-after pills for rape victims after a leading cardinal unexpectedly announced they did not induce abortions and could be used in Catholic hospitals.

Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne, an ally of German-born Pope Benedict, changed his policy after two Catholic hospitals refused to treat a rape victim because they could not prescribe the pill, which is taken after sex to avoid pregnancy.

Orthodox Jewish revival opens up a market niche for Yiddish news

(Men reading the old daily Forverts/Courtesy of the Forward)

The rapid revival of strict Orthodox Jewish communities that has shifted New York City’s religious demographics and transformed Israel’s political landscape has created a new market niche for a 115-year-old Yiddish newspaper.

Next Monday, Forverts (Forward) will launch a daily news website for Yiddish speakers who are bringing the language of Eastern Europe’s Ashkenazi Jews back from its near-death experience when millions of speakers died in the Holocaust.

The New York-based weekly, launched in 1897 as a crusading socialist daily for Jewish immigrants to the United States, has been in slow decline since 1945.

Lutherans bristle at idea of joining Catholic Church like disaffected Anglicans

(The Leipzig Disputation of 1519 between Martin Luther (R) and Catholic theologian Johannes Eck (L), by Julius Hübner) 

Two leading Lutheran clerics have rejected suggestions from the Vatican that it could create a subdivision for converted Lutherans similar to its structures for Anglicans who join the Roman Catholic Church.

The dispute, concerning tiny numbers of believers but major issues in ecumenical relations, comes as the churches mark the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity this week.

German Catholic Church shuts down sexual abuse hotline after demand tapers off

(Stephan Ackermann, Bishop of Trier attends a news conference on the launching of a telephone hotline for victims of sexual abuse, in south western German city of Trier March 30, 2010. (Text reads: “victims of sexual abuse”) REUTERS/Johannes Eisele)

Germany’s Roman Catholic Church has shut a national hotline for victims of sexual abuse by priests because demand for it has dropped since the peak of the scandal in 2010, the bishop overseeing the project said.

The Church plans to continue studying clerical sex abuse and is in contact with potential research partners after sacking the criminologist it originally hired for an independent report on the issue, Bishop Stephan Ackermann told journalists.

French government determined to legalise gay marriage despite huge demo

(Thousands of demonstrators march in Paris, to protest France’s planned legalisation of same-sex marriage, January 13, 2013 .The banner reads ” Long live the parity in the marriage, one mother, one father it is elementary” REUTERS/Charles Platiau)

A huge weekend protest against the legalisation of same-sex marriage and adoption has not dented the French government’s determination to pass the planned reform into law soon, leading cabinet ministers said on Monday.

In one of the largest protests in decades, roughly half a million people marched through Paris on Sunday demanding that President Francois Hollande withdraw the reform bill and hold a national debate before any change in the definition of marriage.

French protest at Eiffel Tower against plan to legalise gay marriage and adoption

(French humorist and TV host Virginie Merle (C), also known as “Frigide Barjot” demonstrates against the gay marriage, adoption and procreation assistance in Paris, January 13, 2013. The women with her wear hats from the French Revolution. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier )

Several hundred thousand people massed at the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Sunday to protest against President Francois Hollande’s plan to legalize gay marriage and adoption by June.

Three columns of protesters, waving pink and blue flags showing a father, mother and two children, converged on the landmark from different meeting points in Paris. Many came after long train and bus rides from the provinces.

Timeline: Marriage and homosexual rights in France

(A demonstrator waves a flag on the Champ de Mars near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, to protest France’s planned legalisation of same-sex marriage, January 13, 2013. REUTERS/Charles Platiau)

Marchers filed through the French capital on Sunday to protest against President Francois Hollande’s plan to legalize gay marriage and adoption.

Here is a timeline on marriage and the rights of homosexuals in France.

1791 – Following the French Revolution, the penal code is amended to decriminalize homosexual acts. But social disapproval in the traditionally Catholic country remains strong until recent years.

Sassy French comedian rallies broad front against gay marriage law

(French humorist and TV host Virginie Merle, also known as “Frigide Barjot” poses after a news conference in Paris, January 10, 2013.  REUTERS/Charles Platiau)

When the opponents of gay-marriage take to the streets in Paris on Sunday, their protest will be led neither by politicians nor priests, but by a sassy comedian in a pink T-shirt who goes by the stage name Frigide Barjot.

With her on the march, expected to be one of the capital’s biggest demonstrations in years, will be a young gay man who campaigns against homosexual marriage and an an older activist from the right-to-life movement.