Pope Benedict XVII always try to get a head start on Lent, and it’s been my practice these last few years to approach Lent as a season to increase in virtue – a time to find ways to do more good. So one of the things I’m doing this Lent is returning to weekday Mass; something I’ve neglected for about a month now.

St. Ambrose Catholic Church is about thirty minutes away, which means that I had to wake up at 6:45 AM to be able to make the 8:00 AM Mass. It was about 7:00 AM when I turned on the computer and went to Facebook. I thought it was a hoax when one of my Facebook friends posted on my wall, “Pope resigns!!”. It had to be a hoax! I knew this day would come, given positive comments he made early on in his pontificate about good reasons why a Pope should resign, rather than serve without an ability to serve adequately; but today? On the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes? It was to my great disappointment news reports confirmed it. Pope Benedict XVI will resign on February 28, 2013. He became the Bishop of Rome on April 19, 2005.

Translated from Latin, below is the full text of Pope’s declaration made at today’s (2/11/2013) Consistory of Cardinals.

Dear Brothers,

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, 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. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I 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.

Having became Catholic on August 8, 2006, Benedict XVI was my first Pope. I loved his writings prior to him becoming Pope, and I enjoyed even more the encyclicals and books he has written since succeeding St. Peter. I was always humbled that some of the theological concepts and perspectives I shared in my books written prior to his Jesus of Nazareth series, were identical to his, but his written more eloquently and simple of course. I’ve never met Pope Benedict XVI in person, but I feel so close to him. Hearing about his resignation has hit me even harder than when I learned that my own Father had passed away (probably because I was prepared for that news). I suppose I should keep in mind that I’m not losing a Holy Father, I’m gaining a new one. I’m going to spend this Lent praying the Rosary with the intention that God our Father sends us another just like him.

Thank you for all you done Pope Benedict! I pray that your remaining years are full of blessings and peace! I love you!