Pope Benedict XVI vacated his office Thursday, two weeks after announcing his surprise resignation. He cited his age and health as reasons, but that has not quieted rampant speculation that something else may be at work, like a Vatican scandal.
Benedict XVI is the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years and such a historic decision is not hastily made.
As previously reported by IBTimes, the Vatican had failed to disclose many of Benedict’s health problems. On a recent trip to Mexico, he fell in a bathroom, opening a wound on his head that bled profusely. It also came out that he had a heart pacemaker. According to his biographer, Peter Seewald, Benedict also may be blind in one eye and losing his hearing. Seewald, in an interview with Italy's Corriere della Sera, noted that Joseph Ratzinger had looked exhausted during their last meeting.
In his farewell speech, the pontiff alluded to poor health, saying, “In these last months I have felt that my strength had diminished and I asked God earnestly in prayer to enlighten me with His light to make me make the right decision, not for my own good, but for the good of the church. I have taken this step in full awareness of its seriousness and also its newness, but with a profound peace of mind.”
At 85 years of age, Benedict XVI’s health is a natural concern and perhaps the most probable reason he chose to resign, but many believe that problems within the Vatican were another factor. The Vatican is currently facing many questions about a rumored gay sex scandal, coverups of clerical sex abuse of minors, documents stolen by the pope's butler, potential fraud and money laundering.
The Vatileaks scandal and the subsequent publication of “Sua Santità. Le carte segrete di Benedetto XVI” ["His Holiness: The Secret Letters of Benedict XVI"] by Gianluigi Nuzzi, containing the confidential letters between Pope Benedict XVI and his personal secretary, Paolo Gabriele, offered a glimpse inside the Vatican, including rivalries within the church, jealousy and corruption. Nuzzi is planning to release an English version of the book, “Ratzinger Was Afraid,” on March 13 with added content discussing the pope’s resignation and why he believed church scandals were at the heart of his decision.
Charles Poladian joined IBTimes in October 2012 and, when not reporting on all things topical, can be found reading or photographing concerts.