VATICAN CITY: Pope Benedict XVI announced today that he would resign on Feb. 28 because he was simply too infirm to carry on – 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 85-year-old pope announced his decision in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals this morning.
He 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.
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.