Pope Benedict XVI has announced that he will relinquish his role as head of the Catholic Church on Feb. 28 due to his failing health. The 85-year-old pontiff says he no longer has the strength to carry out his duties. He will be the first Pope to resign since the Middle Ages; the last abdication took place in 1296.
The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI in April 2005, succeeding the late John Paul II. Vatican insiders tell NBC that Monday’s sudden resignation “came as a shock.”
In a statement, the Pope explained his decision:
“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 fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.”
The pontiff ended his remarks by adding:
“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.”