Former Pope Benedict -- in one of the few times he has broken his silence since stepping down nearly a year ago -- has branded as "absurd" fresh media speculation that he was forced to quit, the Reuters website reports today (February 26, 2014).
Church law says a pope's resignation is valid only if he makes the decision in full freedom and without pressure from others.
"There is absolutely no doubt regarding the validity of my resignation from the Petrine ministry," Benedict, 86, who now has the title "pope emeritus," said in a letter to the Italian website Vatican Insider published today.
Benedict announced his decision to resign on February 11, 2013 and formally stepped down on February 28, becoming the first pope in 600 years to do so. Two weeks later, Francis -- who had been a cardinal in Argentina -- was elected the first non-European pope in 1,300 years.