NBC: Pope Benedict XVI to resign on Feb. 28
Updated at 7:09 a.m. ET: ROME — Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday he will resign on February 28 as leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, saying he no longer has the strength to carry out his duties. The 85-year-old announced his decision during an address, in Latin, at the “Concistory for the canonization of the martyrs of Otranto”, a small event held in the early morning. The decision, which took even the Vatican hierarchy by surprise, makes him the first pope to resign since the middle ages.
His statement was posted on the Vatican Radio website. He said carrying out the duties of being pope required “both strength of mind and body.”
“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,” the pontiff’s statement said. The choice was a “decision of great importance” for the church, he added.
Greg Burke, senior communications adviser to the Holy See, confirmed the pope will step down on February 28 at 8 p.m. local time (2 p.m. ET), leaving the office vacant until a successor is chosen.
Luke Coppen, editor of UK newspaper The Catholic Herald, told the Daily Telegraph: “Pope Benedict’s pontificate has been full of surprises. This is the biggest one of all.” Born in Bavaria, Germany in 1927, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became the 265th pope in April 2005, describing himself “a simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord.” His tough stance on theological issues had earned him the nickname “God’s rottweiler”