'God told me to': Why ex-pope Benedict resigned

When former Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world in February announcing his resignation from the papacy, the 86-year-old said he left his office due to the effects of aging. Now a new report says he got his pink slip from a different source — God.
The Catholic News Service reported that Benedict's comments first appeared in a report Monday (Aug. 19) in the Italian newspaper, Zenit, a Catholic news agency.
According to the agency, "a few weeks ago" the former Bishop of Rome told an unnamed reporter he felt the conviction to step down in a "mystical experience" that "had lasted months" where "God told [him] to" retire to a private life of prayer. He also claimed that the "charisma" of current Pope Francis only confirms why God had him retire from the post.
As Reuters notes, he was succeeded by Pope Francis, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, who was elected as the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years.
Questions reemerge
The surprising news reignites questions about whether the German ex-pontiff's announcement on Monday, Feb. 11, really stemmed from the effects of "advanced age" as he initially said.
"After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry," he told his cardinals in February, becoming the first head of the papacy to step down in about 600 years.
His self-assessment was reiterated in the media. The Guardian reported a German journalist's assertions in a recent meeting that the former pope "was going deaf, appeared to be blind in one eye, and was emaciated and 'exhausted-looking.'"
This is not the only rumor to arise since the former pope's last day on the job on February 28. Speculation also grew that he was depressed after his trusted butler, Paolo Gabriele, was caught leaking his personal correspondence. The Italian press also reported on an insider pro-gay lobby within the Church.
Some had also claimed after the resignation was made public that the Pope had legal trouble stemming from the sexual abuse scandal. Since being elected in 2005, critics had argued that his ascendance to pope was based on legal immunity from lawsuits rather than suitability for the office.
Critics gained more ammunition after a scathing 2010 article in The New York Times reported that when Benedict, who was previously Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, headed the Vatican office called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 1981 to 2005, the office that decides whether priests accused of sexual abuse should be given full canonical trials and defrocked, the future pope Benedict failed to defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys.
Pope prayed for quiet life, but 'God didn't listen'
This isn't the first time the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has said he has heard from God.
In April 2005, a day after his installation Mass, Benedict told an audience of German pilgrims at the Vatican that at one point during the conclave he viewed the idea of being elected pope as a "guillotine," and he prayed to God to be spared selection.
But God "didn't listen to me," he said
"As the trend in the ballots slowly made me realize that — in a manner of speaking, the guillotine would fall on me — I started to feel quite dizzy," he recounted, according to USA Today. "I thought that I had done my life's work and could now hope to live out my days in peace. I told the Lord with deep conviction, 'Don't do this to me.'"
"You have younger and better men who can do this work with a very different verve and strength, " he added.
Speaking in his native German, Benedict, 78 at the time, told the audience that at that moment, a cardinal slipped him a note of paper reminding him what he had preached about Christ calling Peter to follow him even if he did not want to go.

"Evidently, this time he didn't listen to me," the pontiff said.
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