Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday that he will resign Feb. 28, ending eight years as head of the world’s Catholics because the 85-year-old pontiff is too infirm to carry on.
He is the first pope to resign in 600 years.
The pope made the announcement in Latin during a meeting of cardinals in Rome.
“After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths due to an advanced age are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry,” he told the cardinals. “I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only by words and deeds but no less with prayer and suffering.”
“Before Easter, we will have the new pope,” the Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said at a news conference. “It’s not a decision he has just improvised,” Lombardi said. “It’s a decision he has pondered over.”
The pope said that “both strength of mind and body are necessary” to oversee the world’s 1 billion Catholics, “strengths which in the last few months, have deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”