By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent with BosNewsLife News Center
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM (BosNewsLife)-- Belgium's King Albert II said Wednesday, July 03, that he will abdicate in favor of his son due to "health reasons", just months after Queen Beatrix in neighboring Netherlands stepped down.
Speaking live on radio and television, the 79-year-old monarch unexpectedly announced that he would hand over the throne on July 21 to Crown Prince Philippe, who is 53.
He said, his "age and health did not allow" him to continue his duties, but added that son Philippe, also known as Filip in Dutch, was well prepared to become Belgium's next king.
"He enjoys the full trust of princess Mathilde and myself," King Albert II said. The monarch thanked his subjects for their support during his 20-year reign. "Queen Paola and myself will never forget the heartfelt ties which grew between the people and us throughout the years," he added.
"We thank you for your trust and your sympathy and support that you have shown to us, even with criticism," he said, referring to some financial and sexual scandals that rocked the royal family. Yet, "we always have had a warm heart towards you" he told the mainly Dutch and French speaking Belgians.
Albert II became a reluctant king of this Roman Catholic nation of 10.5 million people on August 3, 1993, after his brother Boudewijn died in July of that year in Spain. Albert was the 6th king of the Belgians.
Shortly after his speech, Belgium's Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo told reporters that he had "deep respect for the decision of the king" calling it a "courageous" decision.
"Though he wasn't intended to become king by birth, his enthusiasm, humor and intelligence showed that he was fully prepared to be King of Belgium," Di Rupo added. "He captured the hearts of the Belgians in happy moments and moments of sadness," the prime minister said.
King Albert II was also viewed as a person uniting this often divided nation during national moments of sorrow, including during the trial of Marc Dutroux, a Belgian serial killer and child molester, convicted of having kidnapped, tortured and sexually abused six girls during 1995 to 1996, ranging in age from 8 to 19, four of whom he murdered.
The king went out of his way to show he deeply cared for the victims and called for reforms in law enforcement, showing that he was above the political wrangling at a time when this nation needed moral guidance, commentators said.
King Albert II's decision to leave came at a time when a younger generation takes over in the low lands of Europe.
On April 30, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands handed the throne to her son Prince Willem-Alexander.
The 75-year-old monarch signed the instrument of abdication in Amsterdam after 33 years on the throne. Shortly after, Willem-Alexander became the country's first king since 1890.
(BosNewsLife's NEWS WATCH is a regular look at key general news developments from especially, but not limited to, (former) Communist countries and other autocratic states impacting the Church and/or other compassionate professionals).
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