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Card Saraiva: John Paul II and Paul VI also considered stepping down

2013-02-19

CARD. JOSE SARAIVA MARTINS
Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints
"When I received the news I was very serene, very calm. It's quite clear that he made the decision freely. He even explained the reasons why he came to this conclusion, so it wasn't something spontaneous. He simply recognized that in the last few months, his physical energy had diminished. He decided that the best thing to do for the Church was to resign.”

Even though the news was unexpected the Cardinal says that Paul VI and even John Paul II also considered the possibility of stepping down. 

CARD. JOSE SARAIVA MARTINS
Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints
"If we take a look at his predecessors, they also considered leaving office. Paul VI thought about it and even created a commission of Canon Law experts, to study the possibility. They advised him not to, because they thought a resignation could  have a psychological effect on his successor and vice versa.  John Paul II also thought about stepping down, but he was advised not to and he didn't.”

Even though a resignation is unheard of in modern times, Canon Law does allow it. Cardinal Saraiva says it's part of the logic of the Church. 

CARD. JOSE SARAIVA MARTINS
Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints
"The idea of having a Pope resign isn't new.  Benedict XVI's predecessors decided not to resign, because they thought it wasn't the best thing for the Church at that time. But Canon Law does allow it.”

So with his decision, at the end of February. Benedict XVI will become the fourth Pope in history to step down. The last one to do so was Gregory XII, roughly 600 years ago.

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