Vatican dismisses talk of pope resigning in 2012

FREIBURG, Germany Sun Sep 25, 2011 8:38pm IST

Pope Benedict XVI waves after celebrating the Eucharist in the southwest German town of Freiburg, September 25, 2011. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Pope Benedict XVI waves after celebrating the Eucharist in the southwest German town of Freiburg, September 25, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann

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FREIBURG, Germany (Reuters) - The Vatican dismissed an Italian newspaper report on Sunday that Pope Benedict was considering resigning next year when he turns 85.

"The pope's health is excellent," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said. "We don't know anything about it. Ask the person who wrote it."

Catholic writer Antonio Socci, writing in the Italian newspaper Libero on Sunday, said the pope was considering resigning when he turns 85 next April. He did not cite any sources or reasons.

In a book last year, the pope said he would not hesitate to become the first pontiff to resign willingly in more than 700 years if he felt himself no longer able, "physically, psychologically and spiritually" to run the Catholic Church.

Lombardi noted that the pope was "holding up very well" during the trip to his German homeland. "It's clear that he is still able to deal with very difficult commitments," he said.

Several popes in recent history, including the late Pope John Paul, considered resigning for health reasons instead of ruling for life.

The last pope to resign willingly was Celestine V in 1294 after reigning for only five months. Gregory XII reluctantly abdicated in 1415 to end a dispute with a rival claimant to the Holy See.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella)

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