John Allen in Rome: Benedict's decision to resign has both won wide praise and raised a whole rafter of questions.
Pope Benedict's decision to resign the papacy at the end of February marks a significant shift in Catholics' understanding of the role of the pope, one prominent theologian who studies church authority has said.
For Catholics used to identifying the pope as a specific person, Benedict's move shows that the pope is also an office, states Brian Flanagan, a professor at Marymount University in Arlington, Va., who also serves as an officer for the College Theology Society.
Before formally resigning from his post at the end of February, Pope Benedict should use the power of his office to take "tangible action" to safeguard children from sexually abusive priests, states the largest U.S. group for clergy sex abuse survivors.
"No matter how tired or weak Pope Benedict may be, he still has two weeks to use his vast power to protect youngsters," the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said in a statement this morning.
The organization which represents the majority of U.S. Catholic sisters has issued a statement thanking Pope Benedict for his "many years of tireless service to the Catholic Church."
Pope Benedict, that statement from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious says, has made contributions "as a theologian, as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and as pope."
The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI is a "holy shakeup" in the Catholic church, states one of the associations for women who wish to be ordained as Catholic priests.
"The Pope’s resignation is a positive sign that the Spirit is at work renewing the church," states the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests in a statement.
Following his resignation, Pope Benedict XVI will move to a monastery of cloistered nuns inside the Vatican, the Vatican spokesperson has stated.
Four clarifications about the pope's resignation were sent this morning by Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesperson:
Pope Benedict XVI has given his resignation freely, in accordance with Canon 332 §2 of the Code of Canon Law.
Pope Benedict XVI will not take part in the Conclave for the election of his successor.
The pope's resignation is a "sign of his great care for the Church," the president of the U.S. bishops' conference, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, said in a statement this morning.
"We are sad that he will be resigning but grateful for his eight years of selfless leadership as successor of St. Peter," wrote Dolan at the U.S. bishops' conference website.
Dolan's full statement, available here, follows:
Statement of Cardinal Timothy Dolan
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