Pope Benedict XVI announced on Monday, February 11, 2012 that he would resign his reign, on Feb. 28 due to ailing health. In his statement to the Vatican cardinals he said "I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me."
A pope has not resigned in several hundred years. "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 explained.
Born Joseph Ratzinger in Germany, he became a member of the Hitler Youth in his younger years. This among other controversies caused considerable friction during his eight year pontificate, including repeated requests for his resignation for his handling of multiple sexual abuse cases prior to his pontification. However, as pope, he apologized to victims for the church's actions, though it was too little, too late in many people's eyes.
In his recent world address, Pope Benedict called for an end to the conflicts in Syria.
He is also noted for being the first pope on twitter.
His closest Vatican officials have known for weeks of his decision prior to his announcement. The search will begin to find a replacement prior to the end of March.