For the first time since 1415, a pope is resigning his post.
Pope Benedict XVI will resign effective February 28, saying he is not strong enough to fully perform his duties. The Vatican says the 85-year-old pontiff is not suffering from any life-threatening diseases and no specific medical condition prompted his resignation. The pope says he is simply tired due to his advanced age.
He now travels via moving platform to the alter in St. Peter's Basilica, and sometimes uses a cane. Individuals who spoke with the pope at the end of last year found him weak and too tired to fully engage in conversation with them.
Benedict announced his decision during a meeting of Vatican cardinals, saying the decision was "of great importance for the life of the church." He also said, "After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have become to the certainty that my strengths due to an advanced age are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry." Benedict had previously expressed he would renounce his position if he ever became too infirm to fulfill his duties.
A conclave to elect a new pope will be held before Easter. Although there is not currently an obvious front-runner, but there are many contenders to become the next pope.
The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII in 1415. His resignation was part of a deal to end the Great Western Schism between papal claimants.
Benedict was named pope in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II.
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