On Monday, the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict XVI, who is 85-years-old, will resign on Feb. 28, citing advanced age as the cause. He has served less than eight years as leader of the Christian faith after taking over Pope John Paul II in 2005.
Pope John Paul II led the third-longest papacy in the church's 2,000-year history and is considered the most traveled pope ever. Pope Benedict lead the church's estimated two billion followers at a time of social change such as some states recognizing gay marriage.
Benedict, born Joseph Ratzinger, told the cardinals of the Catholic Church on Monday. "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 pope said, according to the Vatican.
On Feb. 10, the Vatican published Pope Benedict's letter to the church's cardinals announcing his resignation.
I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church.
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. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. 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. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.
Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.
From the Vatican, 10 February 2013
BENEDICTUS PP XVI
Pope Benedict XVI became the first papal leader to have a social media account when he made his Twitter debut in Dec. 2012. In less than two months, the pope attracted over 1.5 million followers.
On Feb. 10, he made one of his final Tweets as the recognized statesman of the ancient Roman city: "We must trust in the mighty power of God’s mercy. We are all sinners, but His grace transforms us and makes us new." Joseph Ratzinger is the Catholic Church's 265th pope, and is the sixth German to serve as pope.
According to CNN, the last pope to resign was Gregory XII in 1415, who made the move in order to end a civil war within the church in which more than one man claimed to be pope.