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Report: Former Pope Benedict Says God Told Him To Resign

Pope Benedict XVI, on Saturday at the Vatican. i i

Pope Benedict XVI, on Saturday at the Vatican. Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images
Pope Benedict XVI, on Saturday at the Vatican.

Pope Benedict XVI, on Saturday at the Vatican.

Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images

When Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI announced his retirement in February, he surprised pretty much everyone. He was, after all, the first pope to resign since Pope Gregory XII in 1415.

At the time, Benedict cited his age and diminishing strength as his reasons for resigning.

Today, we get word from the Catholic wire service Zenit that Benedict resigned because "God told [him] to."

"Benedict denied he had been visited by an apparition or had heard God's voice, but said he had undergone a 'mystical experience' during which God had inspired in him an 'absolute desire' to dedicate his life to prayer rather than push on as pope," The Guardian reports.

Zenit, by the way, quotes an unnamed visitor of the pope for the story, but both The Guardian and The Telegraph cite a "senior Vatican source" saying the report was reliable.

"The report seems credible," the source told The Guardian. "It accurately explains the spiritual process that brought Benedict to resign."

The Telegraph adds:

"[Benedict] said the more he sees the 'charisma' of Pope Francis, his successor, the more he is convinced that it was 'the will of God' that he became the first pontiff in 600 years to resign.

"Francis, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires, has won huge popularity with his down-to-earth and direct style, renouncing many of the trappings of office, visiting a favela slum during his week-long trip to Brazil last month and calling for a 'poor Church.'

"The conversation between Benedict and the confidante took place in Mater Ecclesiae, the former convent within the walls of the Vatican that has been converted into a retirement home for the German former pope."

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