Pope Benedict XVI will resign as head of the Roman Catholic Church at the end of this month, the aging pontiff announced Monday.
The Pope will resign at precisely 8:00 pm local time on February 28, 2013—almost eight years after succeeding Pope John Paul II following his death in 2005.
“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,” Pope Benedict XVI said in a statement released Monday.
Pope Benedict added that his strength had “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.”
The 85-year-old, German-born pontiff was elected as the 265th Pope on April 19, 2005—becoming the oldest person to have been elected leader of the 1.2 billion Catholics globally.
He is the first Pope to resign in almost 600 years since 1415 when Pope Gregory XII stepped aside and is the first pope to voluntarily step down since 1294.
He has travelled extensively most recently to Lebanon in 2012.
In a statement Monday, he thanked his followers and asked them to pardon his defects.
“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.”
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, was born on April 16, 1927, according to his biography on the Holy See website. He has written numerous publications including “The Ratzinger Report” in 1985 and “Salt of the Earth” in 1996.
Most recently, the pontiff authored "The Environment".