In a startling break with Vatican protocol, a high Vatican official has addressed the issue of whether the ailing Pope John Paul II should retire.
Even before the frail pontiff ended his nine-day hospital stay while fighting respiratory problems, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the secretary of state who ranks No. 2 behind the pope in the Vatican hierarchy, implied that retirement was a possibility.
Asked by reporters February 7 if the 84-year-old John Paul, whose flu and breathing difficulties were compounded by Parkinson’s disease, had considered stepping down as leader of the world’s more than 1 billion Catholics, Sodano said: “We leave this to the conscience of the pope. If there is a man of the church who is guided by the Holy Spirit, if there is a man who loves the church more than everything, if there is a man who has marvelous wisdom, it is the pope. We must have enormous faith in him. He knows what he must do.”