- (Photo: Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi)
The former head of the Roman Catholic Church whose resignation last year made headlines across the globe has denied that he was forced into retirement.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI recently stated that the claims by some that he was forced to resign were "absurd," reported Philip Pullella of Reuters.
"There is absolutely no doubt regarding the validity of my resignation from the Petrine ministry," said the former pontiff in remarks published Wednesday by the Vatican Insider.
"The only condition for the validity of my resignation is the complete freedom of my decision. Speculation regarding its validity is simply absurd."
Last February, Pope Benedict XVI announced that due to advanced age he was stepping down as head of the Catholic Church, the first pontiff to do so in about 600 years.
"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 said. "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."
The sudden resignation led to many claiming that Pope Benedict has been coerced either legally or via blackmail to step down from his position as bishop of Rome.
Addicting Info, a left-wing website devoted to debunking right-wing ideas, posted a story days after the announcement claiming Benedict resigned due to an arrest warrant pertaining to the Church's sex abuse scandal.
"… the Pope, whose given name is Joseph Ratzinger, has a meeting with the Italian President, Giorgio Napolitano on February 23 to beg for immunity against prosecution for allegations of child sex crimes," wrote Shannon Barber of Addicting Info.
"Apparently, this hastily arranged meeting, and likely the resignation as well, are the result of a supposed note received by the Vatican from an undisclosed European government that stated that there are plans to issue a warrant for the Pope's arrest."
Evidence for this meeting was scant and since then no further evidence has arisen; at the time of the resignation, the pope was not named in any Catholic sex abuse case.
Since the installation of Pope Francis, Benedict has largely forgone public life, living in Vatican City and making few public appearances or comments.
"I continue to wear a white cassock and kept the name Benedict for purely practical reasons. At the moment of my resignation there were no other cloths available," said Benedict in his letter.
"In any case, I wear the white cassock in a visibly different way to how the Pope (Francis) wears it. This is another case of completely unfounded speculation."