February 11, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI, who is 85, surprised the world Monday morning by announcing he will resign “due to an advanced age.”

• Many news organizations have reported that Pope Gregory XII was the last leader of the Roman Catholic Church to resign, in 1415. However, in this clip NBC Vatican analyst George Weigel says it’s been “717 years” since the last pope abdicated, by which he probably means Celestine V, who resigned 719 years ago, in 1294. Gregory was not the pope for whom was named the Gregorian calendar (that was Gregory XIII) or Gregorian chant (Gregory the Great or Gregory II, opinions differ). XII resigned so the church could unite under a single pope after a schism. He died in 1417. Here’s some background on papal resignations.

• Pope Benedict XVI, formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was elected pope on April 19, 2005. His name will again become Joseph Ratzinger after he leaves his post.

• Here’s the pope’s statement, in English: “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,” he says.

• Here’s the pope’s most recent tweet, from Sunday:


I don’t yet have an answer about whether like Jim Roberts, Benedict will take his more than 1.5 million Twitter followers with him after he leaves, or whether he will become @Expontif.

• A conclave will be called: Members of the College of Cardinals gather and vote up to four times per day until they’ve elected a new pontiff. Cardinals are not required to be bishops but in practice they are. Potential popes are referred to, informally, as papabile. Workers construct a special chimney in the room the cardinals gather; it’s connected to a stove in which they burn their used ballots. Chemicals added to the ballots color the smoke, which signals how the votes are proceeding. White: Pope. Black: No Pope yet. Side note: The phrase “holy smoke” does not, apparently, refer to this process.

• Need to get accredited to cover the conclave? Apply here. The Holy See Press Office just underwent a shakeup, according to this report.

• “Habemus Papam” is part of the announcement made by the cardinal protodeacon. It’s pronounced “Ha-BAY-moos pa-pam.” Jean-Louis Tauran is the current cardinal protodeacon. In that role, he would appear on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica to announce the selection of a new pope.

And here are some facts about Cardinal Tauran.

Here’s what it’s like to be in the crowd in St. Peter’s Square during “Habemus Papam.”

• Argentine Cardinal Jorge Maria Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, was the runner-up in the 2005 vote that chose Benedict, according to the diary of an anonymous cardinal.

• Last May, Vatican spokesperson Father Frederico Lombardi said rumors the pope would resign were “baseless creations of some journalists, which have no foundation in reality.” That was during the so-called Vatileaks scandal involving the pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, who leaked stolen church documents to Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi. Benedict pardoned Gabriele at Christmas.

• AP style refresher: First reference to church should be “Roman Catholic Church.” “Catholic” is capped in reference to members of the church. “Church” is capped if it follows “Catholic,” lowercase otherwise. Similarly, “pope” and “cardinal” are capped before a proper name, lowercase otherwise. The usual style for referring to a cardinal is “Cardinal [first name] [last name]” though some use a style AP calls “archaic” and traces to “the nobility’s custom of identifications such as William, Duke of Norfolk“: “[First name] Cardinal [last name].”

• The betting site Paddy Power is giving odds on Benedict’s successors, The New York Times reports:

The longest odds offered by the bookie are 1,000/1 on the Irish singer Bono, who is not Catholic, and the Irish television star Father Dougal Maguire, who is not real.

Front pages: Pope Benedict XVI elected | Pope John Paul II dies

Related: Media express shock at resignation | Resources for covering the Pope | Getting beyond cliches when reporting on religion, culture and society

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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City…
Andrew Beaujon

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