pope Benedict denies he was forced to resign
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[February 26, 2014]
By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Former Pope
Benedict, in one of the few times he has broken his silence since
stepping down nearly a year ago, has branded as "absurd" fresh media
speculation that he was forced to quit.
Church law says a pope's resignation is valid only if he takes the
decision in full freedom and without pressure from others.
"There is absolutely no doubt regarding the validity of my
resignation from the Petrine ministry," Benedict, 86, who now has
the title "pope emeritus," said in a letter to the Italian website
Vatican Insider published on Wednesday.
"The only condition for the validity of my resignation is the
complete freedom of my decision. Speculation regarding its validity
is simple absurd," he wrote in answer to a request by the website
for comment on recent Italian media reports.
Benedict announced his decision to resign on February 11, 2013 and
formally stepped down on February 28, becoming the first pope in 600
years to do so. Two weeks later, Francis was elected the first
non-European pope in 1,300 years.
Benedict said at the time that he was stepping down because he no
longer had the physical and spiritual strength to run the 1.2
billion member Church and that his decision had been taken in full
Earlier this month on the day after the first anniversary of the
announcement of the resignation, Italian newspaper Libero ran a long
story reviving speculation that Benedict may have been forced to
resign because of scandals in the Vatican.
In 2012, Benedict's butler was arrested for leaking sensitive
documents alleging corruption among Vatican prelates and
irregularities in Vatican finances.
Italian media at the time reported that a faction of prelates who
wanted to discredit Benedict and pressure him to resign was behind
the leaks. The Vatican has always denied this.
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Libero also suggested that Benedict chose to continue to wear white
because he still felt like he was a pope.
Benedict, who lives in near-total isolation inside a former convent
on the Vatican grounds, was also asked about this and responded:
"I continue to wear a white cassock and kept the name Benedict for
purely practical reasons. At the moment of my resignation there were
no other cloths available. In any case, I wear the white cassock in
a visibly different way to how the Pope (Francis) wears it. This is
another case of completely unfounded speculation."
In an interview with Reuters earlier this month, Benedict's personal
secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, said the former pope saw his
main function now as helping the Church and his successor through
Benedict has only responded to a few letters in the past year and
has appeared in public only a handful of times. The latest was last
Saturday when he attended a ceremony in St Peter's Basilica when
Pope Francis created new cardinals.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Andrew Heavens)
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