Pope Benedict XVI, leader or the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, unexpectedly announced Monday that he no longer has the mental or physical strength to cope with his ministry, and that he will step down as of February 28, Reuters reports.
A Vatican spokesperson said that the pope was not resigning for political reasons and that even his inner circle was surprised by his announcement. A new pope should be chosen by the end of March.
The pope told the cardinals in Latin that in order to govern “…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 fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”
“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.”
The pope was born in Germany and is 85 years old