Pope's resignation surprises even his closest aides; Japan will donate patrol boats to Philippines to monitor China's prescence in disputed waters; South Korea working on unmanned attack helicopters; 36 killed in stampede at Indian religious festival; EU finance ministers meet; and more

Top of the Agenda: Weighing the Pope’s Sudden Resignation

Pope Benedict XVI will resign (Reuters) at the end of the month after nearly eight years as the head of the Catholic Church, saying he is too old to continue at the age of eighty-five. The unexpected announcement marks the first papal resignation in nearly 600 years, surprising even his closest aides (AP). At seventy-eight, the German-born Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was one of the oldest new popes in history when elected, and had been considering stepping down (BBC) for months after being advised by his doctor not to take any more transatlantic trips. The Vatican says it expects a new pope to be elected before Easter.

Analysis

"After the Pole John Paul and German-born Benedict, the post once reserved for Italians is now open to all. Who gets the nod depends on the profile of the new pope that the cardinals who elect him at the next conclave think will guide the Church best. Two senior Vatican officials recently dropped surprisingly clear hints about possible successors. The upshot of their remarks is that the next pope could well be from Latin America," writes Tom Heneghan for Reuters.

"In the absence of a clear frontrunner the field is open to a number of contenders, possibly leading to the election of a pontiff from the developing world for the first time. Commentators are already suggesting that Pope Benedict, known as a stern theologian, could play an influential role behind the scenes in the process to find his successor," write Guy Dinmore and Ferdinando Giugliano for the Financial Times.

"Pope Benedict XVI, who will resign later this month, broke with both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama on several key policy issues during his time at the Vatican. Benedict, who was elected to lead the world's Catholics in 2005, took issue with the war in Iraq, even as he praised Bush on abortion-related issues," writes Katie Glueck for Politico.

 

PACIFIC RIM

Japan Donates Boats to Philippines

Japan plans to donate patrol boats (AFP) to the Philippines in a ramp-up of regional efforts to monitor China's maritime activity in the disputed waters near the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands. Japan will likely finance the deal starting in April, and officially sign it early next year.

SOUTH KOREA: The South Korean military is aiming to develop unmanned attack helicopters (Yonhap) capable of hitting North Korea's front-line bases as a way to counter growing threats.

Expert Victor Cha talks about North Korea's nuclear ambitions in this CFR interview.

ELSEWHERE:

36 killed in Indian religious festival

EU finance ministers meet

This is an excerpt of the CFR.org Daily News Brief. The full version is available on CFR.org.

 

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