Cardinal says Pope may be first to resign in 700 years
An influential European cardinal has suggested in a book being released today that the Holy Father may resign next year.
Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Belgium suggests Pope John Paul might step aside, now that he has achieved his dream of leading the church into the new millennium.
But the Vatican's official spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls moved quickly to put a stop to the speculation, declaring: "This is the personal opinion of Cardinal Danneels, which we do not confirm."
Danneels, who himself has been mentioned as a possible successor to John Paul, is the highest-ranking cleric to go public with the thought, which has been on the minds of many given the frail condition of the Holy Father.
Danneel's comments were reported by Belgian and Italian media from advance excerpts from a book to be released today (Monday).
Speaking about the retirement age for bishops of 75, the cardinal said, "I wouldn't be surprised if the pope also retired after 2000. He absolutely wanted to reach the Jubilee year, but I believe he would retire afterward."
There is precedent as Pope Celestine V abdicated in 1294. He spent the last two years of his life in confinement because his successor feared he could become the rallying point for a schism.