For the first time in nearly 600 years, a sitting Pope is resigning his post. The Vatican announced just minutes ago, Pope Benedict XVI will step down at the end of this month.
Pope Benedict XVI broke the news at a meeting of the cardinals in the Vatican today. The 85-year-old says his diminishing health is making it difficult to continue on as the leader of the Catholic Church. This marks the first time since 1415 a presiding Pope will resign his seat.
Pope Benedict XVI, the 265th head of the Catholic Church, made huge news when he was appointed back in 2005 because of his German ancestry. The pope was the sixth German to hold the seat but the first since the 11th century.
Pope Benedict XVI took over for the beloved Pope John Paul II in April of 2005 after his death. Pope John Paul II held the designation of having the third longest papacy in the church’s history.
But Benedict XVI will be remembered for scandal and controversy. Under his eight-year reign, the church faced hundreds of new allegations of sex abuse by priests.
Pope Benedict XVI made this statement during a meeting of the cardinals today. “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 by words and deeds but no less with prayer and suffering.”
This sets the stage for a conclave, the Catholic Church’s search for a new leader. Many believe this could happen as early as mid-March. The biggest reason for the quick turn around is the traditional mourning period following the death of a pope will not have to be observed.
There are apparently several contenders for the post, but no immediate front-runners. When Benedict XVI took the position after the death of Pope John Paul II, he was the most obvious choice for the position.