World News

Pope Benedict to Step Down February 28

Speculation is rising over who will be elected the next leader of the Roman Catholic Church, a day after Pope Benedict shocked the world with a surprise announcement that he is stepping down.

The pope, a German formerly known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, told a group of cardinals Monday in a routine meeting that he will step down February 28 because his advancing age was making it difficult to carry out his duties.

Pope Benedict will be the first pope to resign from his post since the year 1415, when Pope Gregory stepped down to resolve conflicting claims over the leadership of a church that now serves some 1.2 billion followers worldwide.



Pope Benedict's health has visibly weakened in his eight years as head of the Roman Catholic Church -- one of the shortest papal terms in modern history. A pope's travel schedule can be taxing, and his brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, has told reporters the pontiff had been advised by his doctor not to make any more transatlantic trips.

Pope Benedict's rule has been tainted by a child sex abuse scandal that began long before he ascended to the papacy and only deepened as more cases of priests molesting children emerged, particularly in the U.S. and in Ireland. Last year, he faced a new scandal when his butler was found to be the source of leaked documents alleging corruption in the Vatican's business dealings. Pope Benedict also has been criticized for inflexibility on Church dogmas.

In contrast, he has received praise for instituting a financial watchdog over the Vatican's financial dealings and becoming the first pope to communicate with followers via social media.

Many of those followers continue to express shock at the news. In the predominantly Catholic Philippines, Archbishop Jose Palma, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, said the resignation was unexpected, even though he knew the pope's health was failing.



"Like many others, I am surprised, almost shocked by the resignation. Because while I know that he is really weak, I did not expect it to happen too soon."



Vatican officials are expected to select a new pope before Easter, which this year falls on March 31.

There are several contenders, but no obvious front-runner -- the same situation when Pope Benedict was elected in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II.

Pope Benedict is expected to stay at the papal summer residence, Castel Gandolfo, until a new pontiff has been elected. Afterward, he has said he will spend the remainder of his days at a cloistered monastery in reflection and prayer.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs