Pope Benedict XVI announced that he is resigning from his position as religious leader to a little over one-sixth of the world's population. This is an action that has only been taken by one other pope, and that was over 700 years ago. Pope Benedict sites his failing health as his motivation for stepping down from the post he was elected to after John Paul II's death almost seven years ago.
How is this a political issue, you ask?
Where do I start? Over half of American Roman Catholics voted for President Obama not once, but twice, so that is a strong demographic that cannot be ignored. But another reason why the pope's decision to not take the traditional route out of the Vatican is that American Catholic leaders have been playing a notable role in legislative issues. The particular legislation that immediately comes to mind is Obamacare, which is twisting itself in knots trying to find a way to allow birth control availability to women via their insurance while appeasing Catholic leaders insistence that it would be a mortal sin on their part if insurance they sponsored allowed women access to the Pill.
Seeing that these leaders typically take their directive from the Vatican, naturally anything that happens involving the papacy has the potential to affect American politics.