Former pope Benedict now claims that his resignation in February was prompted by God, who told him to do it during a "mystical experience," The Guardian website reports today (August 21, 2013).
Breaking his silence for the first time since he became the first pope to step down in 600 years, the 86-year-old reportedly said: "God told me to" when asked what had pushed him to retire to a secluded residence in the Vatican gardens.
Benedict denied he had been visited by an apparition or had heard God's voice, but said he had undergone a "mystical experience" during which God had inspired in him an "absolute desire" to dedicate his life to prayer rather than push on as pope.
Benedict's remarks contradict the explanation he gave to cardinals when he announced his resignation on February 11. "My strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry," he said at that time. Italian press reports have recently claimed that Benedict resigned because he was frustrated by a network of influence built up at the Vatican by a pro-gay lobby of prelates.