The 85-year-old is due to step down on February 28. The Pope said he is “fully aware of the gravity of this gesture” but that he lacks the strength to govern Church due to age, according to Vatican's spokesperson Federico Lombardi.
In a statement released by the Catholic Church, Benedict VXI said that “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.”
A Vatican official says they expect the period between Benedict's resignation and the election of a successor to be “as brief as possible,” according to Reuters news agency. However, his resignation means that the Papacy will be vacant until a successor is chosen. A Vatican spokesman said that the Pope "took us by surprise", suggesting that even his closest aides had not previously been informed of the decision. One said that he was left "incredulous" by the Pope's news.
A conclave of cardinals will meet in March 2013, to elect a new pope after his departure.The Pope will not participate in the election of his successor.
In 2010, the 265th Pope said that he would not hesitate to become the first pontiff to retire willingly from his position in more than 700 years, if he felt unable, “physically, psychologically and spiritually” to run the Catholic Church any longer.
A Consistory brother said that the Pope's doctor had recently told him not to make transatlantic trips for health reasons. Following his resignation, he will voyage to a Papal summer residence near Rome, and will then move in to a cloistered residence in the Vatican.
The last time a pope resigned was in 1415.Back then Pope Gregory XII pronounced the resignation, which the cardinals accepted. However, the last time a Pope resigned voluntarily, was Celestine V in 1294.
Pope Benedict XVI has been in office since19 April 2005.
Since his assumption of the title, he has been embroiled in the ‘Vatileaks’ scandal, in which his former butler was accused of stealing confidential information, and leaking it to journalists. The leaked data, which surfaced in January 2012, contained detailed exposes of the institution, revealing the power struggles, factional fighting and personal finances of the Papacy.
Israel’s chief Rabbi has praised the Pope's inter-religious outreach, and has wished him good health, according to a spokesman.
The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, is also expected to respond to the news later today, on account of the Pope’s German roots. He is the sixth German to serve as Pope, and the first since the 11th century.
Pope Benedict XVI sits during a mass in Santiago de Cuba on March 26, 2012 (AFP Photo / Osservatore Romano)
Pope of the digital ageElected on this post in 2005 upon the death of Pope John Paul II, 78-year-old former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became one of the oldest new popes in history.
Pope Benedict XVI is seen as a religious conservative, in line with his predecessor’s policies.
During his Papacy, Benedict XVI was actively involved in social media. He is online everywhere these days — from tweets on his @Pontifex account to daily YouTube videos to a new app dubbed 'The Pope App', launched just recently.
The five-star application received extremely positive reviews from those who downloaded it.
Pope Benedict XVI entered history as the first head of the Roman Catholic Church to join the Twitter microblogging website in December 2012.
Pope Benedict XVI posts his first tweet using an iPad tablet after his Wednesday general audience in Paul VI's Hall at the Vatican December 12, 2012 (Reuters / Giampiero Sposito)