Pope Resigning On Feb. 28, Conclave In March [VIDEO]
Pope Benedict XVI has announced that he will resign Feb. 28, the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years.
The decision sets the stage for a conclave to elect a new pope before the end of March.
The post will remain vacant until a new Pope is elected according to Sky News.
The 85-year-old pope announced his decision in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals Monday morning.
A Decision Of "Great Importance To The Church"
He said that because of his advanced age and diminishing strength, he didn't feel he could carry on the job. Georg Ratzinger, the Pope's brother, says his doctor told him not to take transatlantic trips for health reasons and the pontiff had been considering stepping down for months.
In his message, Pope Benedict XVI emphasized that carrying out the duties of being pope — the leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics worldwide — requires "both strength of mind and body."
Benedict called his choice "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," he told the cardinals. "I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only by 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 St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary — strengths 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 final post on his Twitter page, sent on Sunday, said: "We must trust in the mighty power of God's mercy. We are all sinners, but His grace transforms us and makes us new" reports Sky News.
The Vatican said immediately after his resignation Benedict would go to Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer retreat south of Rome, and then would live in a cloistered monastery.
Obama Sends Prayers & Thanks
President Barack Obama is sending his thanks and prayers to Pope Benedict XVI, who announced Monday that he will step down this month.
Obama says he and first lady Michelle Obama have warm memories of their 2009 visit with the pope.
Obama is offering best wishes to the cardinals who will gather in mid-March to choose his successor, and says Catholics play a key role in the U.S. and abroad.
Benedict became the first pontiff to step down in 600 years when he declared he would resign Feb. 28, citing a lack of strength to do the job. When he was elected in 2005, he was 78 — the oldest pope chosen in nearly 300 years.
Most Rev. Paul G. Bootkoski, Bishop of the Diocese of Metuchen asked for prayers for the pontiff. "It is not a complete surprise, however, that this man of great humility and dedication would recognize his inability to carry out fully the duties his office requires and would put first what ultimately is best for the Catholic Church and its members," he said in a press release.
Who Will Succeed Pope Benedict?
I’m as startled as the rest of you and as anxious to find out exactly what’s going on,” Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, said on NBC's Today Show. “Except for prayer, I don’t know what else to do. I’ll await instruction with everyone else.
Dolan is considered a long shot to succeed the Pope. Dolan is popular and backs the pope's conservative line, the general thinking is that the Catholic Church doesn't need a pope from a "superpower."
Other contenders to be his successor include Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, the archbishop of Vienna, and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Canadian head of the Vatican's office for bishops.
Given half of the world's Catholics live in the global south, there will once again be arguments for a pope to come from the developing world. Cardinal Antonio Tagle, the archbishop of Manila, has impressed many Vatican watchers, but at 56 and having only been named a cardinal last year, he is considered too young.
Short Time Pope
Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger was 78 when he was elected the 265th Pope in 2005. He was the first German pope to serve since the 11th century. His time in office will be one of the shortest at seven years, 10 months and three days according to ABC News.
The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415 in a deal to end the Great Western Schism among competing papal claimants. He is not the first Pope Benedict to resign; Pope Benedict IX resigned from office in 1045 according to the Catholic Encyclopedia.
TEXT OF THE POPE'S ANNOUNCEMENT
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."
The Associated Press contributed to this report