(Vatican Radio) The world’s press has been reacting to the surprise resignation by Pope Benedict XVI.Lydia O’Kane followed events at the Holy See press office.
As news began to filter out that Pope Benedict had decided to resign, news networks began taking up spaces just opposite St Peter’s Square to relay the latest developments.
In a hastily arranged press briefing at the Holy See Press Office there was a feeling that the world’s journalists had unusually been left without words and that what was going on was a piece of history. The sense of surprise in the room was echoed by the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi when he took to the podium. He began by saying the “Pope took us by surprise”.
Looking composed as he spoke and sitting alone under the gold papal insignia of the press office, Fr Lombardi said that sickness was not the reason that the Holy Father had decided to step down, it was as the Pope had said in his declaration, "strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.”
In answer to a question by a journalist, Fr Lombardi said that it was not a decision that the Pope had made at the on the spur of the moment, it was a courageous decision, a mature choice and he also underlined that Pope Benedict was composed and conscious that this was an important event in the life of the church.
At one point Father Lombardi drew journalists attention to the Book which contains the Code of Canon law, he opened it on the page which is marked 332, the code which denotes the resignation of a Pope, reading out loud what the act entails.
Pope Benedict is due to leave office on February the 28th at 20.00 Rome time. With that in mind the Holy See Press Office Press Director pre-empted some questions.
He said that the Holy Father would not participate in the upcoming Conclave. Father Lombardi also said that the Pope would go to Castelgandolfo immediately after leaving office and following that he will live in a former cloistered monastery inside the Vatican.
Listen to this report by Lydia O’Kane