Pope Benedict 'will not interfere in successor's affairs'

Operation involving the Pope's pacemaker did not affect his decision to resign, Vatican says

Pope Benedict XVI will not interfere in the affairs of his successor after his decision to resign later this month, the pontiff's brother has said.

Georg Ratzinger told the BBC the Pope would only "make himself available" if he were needed.

The Pope said on Monday he would resign after nearly eight years as the head of the Catholic Church because he was too old to continue at the age of 85.

The Vatican now says it expects a new pontiff to be elected before Easter.

Pope Benedict XVI

  • At 78, one of the oldest new popes in history when elected in 2005
  • Born in Germany in 1927, joined Hitler Youth during WWII and was conscripted as an anti-aircraft gunner - but deserted
  • As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, spent 24 years in charge of Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - once known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition
  • A theological conservative with uncompromising views on homosexuality and women priests

Benedict XVI will bid farewell to his followers in a final audience in St Peter's Square on 27 February, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi has said.

This will be the day before he officially steps down.

The unexpected development - the first papal resignation in nearly 600 years - surprised governments, Vatican-watchers and even the Pope's closest aides.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005 after John Paul II's death.

The BBC's David Willey in Rome says that in theory there has never been anything stopping Pope Benedict or any of his predecessors from stepping aside.

Under the Catholic Church's governing code, Canon Law, the only conditions for the validity of such a resignation are that it be made freely and be properly published.

But resignation is extremely rare: the last pontiff to step aside was Pope Gregory XII, who resigned in 1415 amid a schism within the Church.

'Natural process'

Possible successors

  • Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, 64
  • Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Canada, 68
  • Archbishop Angelo Scola of Milan, 71
  • Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria, 80
  • Archbishop Christoph Schoenborn of Vienna, 67
  • Archbishop Odilo Pedro Scherer of Sao Paulo, 63
  • Gianfranco Ravasi - President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, 70
  • Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of the Philippines, 55

Speaking to the BBC from his home in Regensburg, Germany, Georg Ratzinger said his brother had been advised by his doctor not to take any more transatlantic trips and had been considering stepping down for months.

"When he got to the second half of his 80s, he felt that his age was showing and that he was gradually losing the abilities he may have had and that it takes to fulfil this office properly."

He said the resignation therefore was part of a "natural process".

And he added: "Where he's needed he will make himself available, but he will not want to want to intervene in the affairs of his successor."

Start Quote

Among the pilgrims and other visitors out on St Peter's Square there was shock and disbelief”

End Quote Alan Johnson BBC Rome correspondent

He later admitted at a news conference that he had been "very surprised" by his brother's move but saw "the reasons behind the decision".

The next pontiff will be chosen by members of a 117-strong conclave held in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican.

Analysts say Europeans are still among the favourites, including the current Archbishop of Milan, Angelo Scola, and Christoph Schoenbron, a former Austrian student of the current Pope.

But strong candidates could emerge from Africa and Latin America, which both have very large Catholic populations. Among the names being mentioned are Ghana's Cardinal Peter Turkson and Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria.

Georg Ratzinger said he believed the next pontiff would be another European and not from Latin America or Africa.

"I am convinced there will be a pope from one of these countries at some point," he told a news conference in Germany.

How Catholics reacted across the globe

"I have my doubts though it will be now as there are so many capable Europeans and the Africans are not as well-known and possibly don't have the experience yet."

'Some duties'

The Pope was to retire to the papal residence at Castel Gandolfo when he leaves office, the Vatican said, before moving into a renovated monastery used by cloistered nuns for "a period of prayer and reflection".

"He'll stay in Rome and will certainly have some duties and of course will continue to educate himself intellectually and theologically," Georg Ratzinger told the BBC.

Father Lombardi said on Tuesday the Pope had been wearing a pacemaker for some time, but was generally in good health, Reuters news agency reports.

According to a report in Italy's Il Sole 24 business newspaper, he had surgery to replace a pacemaker just under three months ago.

At 78, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was one of the oldest popes in history at his election.

Pope Benedict XVI announces his resignation in a surprise statement

He took the helm as one of the fiercest storms the Catholic Church has faced in decades - the scandal of child sex abuse by priests - was breaking.

The pontiff said in his Monday's statement: "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."

A theological conservative before and during his time as pontiff, he has taken traditional positions on homosexuality and women priests, while urging abstinence and continuing opposition to the use of contraceptives.

His attempts at inter-faith relations were mixed, with Muslims, Jews and Protestants all taking offence at various times, despite his efforts to reach out and make visits to key holy sites, including those in Jerusalem.

More on This Story

Pope resigns

More Europe stories


Features & Analysis

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • Audi R8Need for speed

    Audi unveils its fastest production car ever - ahead of its Geneva debut


  • A bicycle with a Copenhagen WheelClick Watch

    The wheel giving push bikes an extra boost by turning them into smart electric hybrids

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.