Pope Benedict is to resign his office at the end of this month after declaring he was too old to carry on as head of the Catholic Church.
Pope Benedict XVI will step down on February 28, the Vatican said today, adding the announcement was a surprise.
Vatican statement said the 85-year-old Pope was unable to continue in
office due to his age and diminishing strength, and the papacy would
remain vacant until a successor is elected.
He is the first
pontiff to resign in nearly 600 years. The decision sets the stage for a
conclave to elect a new Pope before the end of March, since the
traditional mourning time that would follow the death of a Pope does not
have to be observed.
The Pope announced his decision in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals this morning.
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
"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 recognise my incapacity to
adequately the ministry entrusted to me."