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....and a rendering of the response (given from handwritten notes) by the Cardinal-Dean Angelo Sodano – the controversial figure who'll preside over the interregnum... yet, being ineligible to vote at 85, not the coming Conclave:
Your Holiness, beloved and revered Successor of Peter,
Your moving message has resounded in this room like a lightning bolt in a calm sky.
We've listened to you with a sense of shock, rather in total disbelief. In your words we noticed the great affection that you have always had for the Holy Church of God, for this Church that you have loved so much.
Allow me to tell you, in the name of this apostolic cenacle - the College of Cardinals - in the name of your dear collaborators, let me tell you that we are closer to you than ever before, just as we have been in these eight luminous years of your pontificate.
On 19 April 2005, if I remember right, at the end of the Conclave I asked you, with trembling voice after all our years together, "Do you accept your canonical election as Supreme Pontiff?" And you did not take long - albeit with trepidation - to respond by saying that you accepted with trust in the Lord and in the maternal intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church.
With Mary, that day you gave your "yes," and so began your luminous pontificate with the plow of continuity, that continuity of which you have spoken to us so often in the history of the Church – continuity with your 265 predecessors in the Chair of Peter, in the course of two thousand years of history, from the Apostle Peter, humble fisherman of Galilee, right through to the great popes of the last century, from St. Pius X to Blessed John Paul II.
Holy Father, before February 28 – the day which, as you have said, you seek to put the word 'fine' [the end] over your service as pontiff, one given with so much love, with humility – before February 28, we will have a way to better express our feelings, so will many pastors and faithful throughout the world, as will so many people of good will along with the authorities of many countries. In this month to come, too, we will have the joy of hearing your shepherd's voice on Ash Wednesday, then on Thursday, with the clergy of Rome, in the Angelus of these Sundays, at the Wednesday audiences; there will thus be many opportunities still to hear your fatherly voice....
Even beyond these, your mission will continue onward: you have said that you will always be close to us with your witness and your prayers. Sure as the stars in the sky always continue to shine, so the star of your pontificate will always shine in our midst.
We are close to you, Holy Father – bless us.