Dr Rebecca Rist, Senior Lecturer in History, Department of History:
Pope Benedict XVI has stepped down as pope at the age of 85. It is very rare
for a pope to resign. The medieval Pope Celestine V resigned in 1294 after a
very brief pontificate because he could not control the politics of the
Vatican. This is not the case with Benedict who is stepping down because of age
and frail health. He feels that someone younger and stronger will be better
able to carry out the exhausting duties of head of the Catholic Church. As pope
Benedict has implemented many reforms and condemned the scandal of child abuse.
The cardinals will now have to elect a new pope – perhaps someone from South
America or Africa – areas of the world where the Church is growing in numbers.
The new pope will have huge global issues to prioritise – poverty, education,
human rights, the environment – and not least the importance of faith and
belief in an increasingly secularised Europe. Benedict is a distinguished
theologian and will doubtless use his retirement to dedicate himself to further