The resignation of the Holy Father was unexpected and has taken us by surprise. It is true that in recent months it has become evident that Pope Benedict was becoming more physically frail and in more need of assistance while walking. Nonetheless, his intellectual capacity has not been impaired at all.
It takes a great deal of wisdom and courage to make such a momentous decision as to resign from the Papacy. It is not the first time in history that a Pope has resigned and Canon Law makes provision for this. Pope Benedict himself has, in the past, alluded to the possibility of a Pope resigning.
I am sure that this has been a most difficult and agonizing decision for His Holiness. In his statement he refers to frequently examining his conscience on the matter, but feels that both strength of mind and body are necessary for the adequate exercise of the papacy and that his health has deteriorated over recent months.
We are grateful for the Pontificate of Benedict XVI. Since his inauguration on 24th April 2005, he has given firm and decisive leadership to the Church. He has reached out to leaders of other Christian Churches and to leaders of other Faiths. He has sought the forgiveness of victims of clerical abuse and has on a number of occasions met with victims. He has enriched the Church with his theology and incisive mind. He has spoken on behalf of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world.
In making this announcement now the Holy Father is ensuring a smooth transition for his successor. We acknowledge his courage and wish him well that his retirement will bring him peace and rest.
Archbishop Stephen Brislin
Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference
Issued on the 11th day of February 2013, at Cape Town