Former Pope Benedict Denies Claims He Was Forced Out

Makes rare public statement on media speculation following his resignation last year

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Former Pope Benedict XVI has denied he was forced to step down from the papacy nearly a year ago.

“There is absolutely no doubt regarding the validity of my resignation from the Petrine ministry,” wrote Benedict in a letter that was published on the Italian website Vatican Insider on Wednesday, in response to fresh media claims about the circumstances surrounding his resignation.

The Italian newspaper Libero revived speculation this month that the former head of the Catholic church had been forced to resign from his position because of scandals and allegations of corruption in the Vatican, reports Reuters.

But Benedict called the allegations “absurd”. Vatican law dictates that a pope’s resignation is only valid if the decision is taken in full autonomous freedom, without pressure from others. “The only condition for the validity of my resignation is the complete freedom of my decision. Speculation regarding its validity is simple absurd,” he wrote.

The now pope emeritus announced his decision to step down in February last year, becoming the first pope in 600 years to do so. His resignation led the way for Pope Francis to be elected as the first non-European pope in 1,300 years a month later.