His Holiness Pope Benedict XV announced today at a meeting of the Sacred College of Cardinals, that he would step down as the pope in late February of this year. This announcement came suddenly, no one was expecting it, and it took church officials by surprise. It is speculated that the pope wishes to retire to his beloved Germany and write and perhaps teach, though it is not ruled out that the pope may be ill and that that may be the reason for the sudden departure.
A special convocation will convene sometime in March to elect a new pope. Pope Benedict has elected many in the College of Cardinals and he is sure to have some say into who the next pope may be. And he will have influence upon the papacy to remain conservative in nature. Because the pope did not die, there will be no need for a period of mourning prior to the Convocation.
Pope Benedict is the oldest pope elected since Pope Clement XII in 1730. He was born Joseph Alois Ratzinger on April 16, 1927 in Germany, his father was a policeman. Benedict received his priestly ordination on June 29, 1953. He participated in the second vatical council as a theological consultant to one of the cardinals.He also took part in the conclave which elected John Paul I , and later that year, in the concave to elect John Paul II. In 2002, he was made Dean of the College of Cardinals. He was head of the commission that wrote the new Catechism of the Catholic Church and presented this to John Paul in 1992.
In 2005, Benedict presided over the funeral mass for his friend, Pope John Paul II which was the largest Requiem Mass in history. There were over 400.000 people in St. Peter Square and millions more watched on TV.