Today, we’ve learned that Pope Benedict XVI, sovereign of the Vatican and leader of the Catholic Church, will be stepping down from those roles.
Benedict, voted one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME, did not give many details as to what he would be doing after the papacy.
Sources tell us that he has some “things in the works” and will share them in the coming weeks.
It is rumored that Benedict XVI, having spent eight years in the role of Pope since his election on April 19, 2005, was considering various Pope In Residence programs but eschewed them in order to “do his own thing.”
He is still listed as “Pope” on the Catholic Church’s Wikipedia page.
He told the press in a statement:
“Thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.”
While the Pope isn’t commenting more specifically on his departure or the formality of the prayer project, sources claiming direct knowledge of the situation tell TechCrunch that the departing head of the Catholic Church’s shares in the Vatican may have recently vested, which could be one of many explanations for his eagerness to leave.
The Catholic Church still claims to be the largest spiritual organization in the world, with over a billion members. But some think those numbers are inflated by one-time visitors. “If you look at the number who actually return weekly, or monthly, it shows slowing growth in most regions,” a source, who wished to remain unnamed, told TechCrunch.
Finally, there are many who believe that he’s simply been stuck in the shadow of his predecessor. “Every week you hear at least one person say, ‘This never would have happened if John Paul were still with us,'” one insider told us.
The Pope also suggested that his mysterious next step was a “natural transition” from his previous role, and he was still planning to remain involved in the Church, possibly in an advisor position. “I would have liked to stay longer, but I just saw a big opportunity that I couldn’t pass up,” people familiar with the matter recounted him saying.
While a Pope stepping back is not an everyday occurrence, leaders often leave organizations like the Catholic Church, as they scale or reach a new life stage. Sometimes there is a difference in vision. Sometimes people burn out.
And now it’s happened at the Vatican. We’ll update as we hear more.
Image via Flickr.