Pope Benedict XVI Announces Resignation During Vatican Ceremony

In a surprise announcement on Monday, Pope Benedict XVI resigned from the papacy after 8 years. He cited his old age and failing strength. The announcement marked the first time a pope has resigned in nearly 6 centuries. The last resignation occurred in 1415 when Pope Gregory XII unwillingly gave up the post amid the Great Western Schism. The last voluntary resignation came from Celestine V in 1294.

The Pope, born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, made his announcement during a Vatican ceremony. "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,” he said. "I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with 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 Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me,” the Pope continued. "For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is."

“Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff,” he added. “With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.”

Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said a new Pope will be chosen “before Easter.” "It's not a decision he has just improvised. It's a decision he has pondered over,” Lombardi added.

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