Days before the world's Catholics prepare to enter the Lenten season, Pope Benedict XVI has announced he will resign his office Feb. 28.
The Vatican made the announcement Monday. Pope Benedict is the first Pope to resign the office since Gregory XII, who left the papacy in 1415.
Pope Benedict was elected April 19, 2005, following the death of Pope John Paul II, according to the New York Times.
Quoting from the New York Times story:
Regarded as a doctrinal conservative, the pope, 85, said that after examining his conscience “before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are longer suited to an adequate exercise” of his position as head of the world’s Roman Catholics.
The announcement is certain to plunge the Roman Catholic world into frenzied speculation about his likely successor and to evaluations of a papacy that was seen as both conservative and contentious.
In a statement in several languages, the pope said his “strength of mind and body” had “deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”
The statement continued: "However, in today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me."
The St. Louis Review has the complete text of the Pope's resignation letter.
The Pope joined Twitter in December 2012 in an effort to reach a wider audience.
According to the Associated Press, the Vatican may hold a conclave to elect a new pope by mid-March, since the traditional mourning time that would follow the death of a pope isn't a factor.
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