The world is reacting with shock to the news that Pope Benedict the Sixteenth will resign at the end of this month. The pope said he is leaving because he is no longer strong enough to do the job.
Pope Benedict delivered the surprising message in a speech to cardinals at the Vatican this morning. The 85 year old pontiff said he will step down February 28th because he is simply too old to carry on. The leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics said carrying out his duties requires "both strength of mind and body."
The news stunned church leaders around the world. "I have to be honest, I am just as shocked and as startled as all of you."
It's the first time a Pope has resigned in nearly 600 years. On the streets of Europe -- some people refused to believe it. "It can't be true -- it would be too huge for the church for something like this to happen."
A Vatican spokesman said the Pope deserves respect for making such a personal and courageous decision to quit. For now, the pope's resignation sets the stage for a new pal election. Vatican officials hope to choose a new pope in time for Holy Week at the end of March.
Pope Benedict had big shoes to fill in 2005 when cardinals chose him to succeed Pope John Paul the second. One of his biggest tasks was responding to the priest sex abuse scandal. Pope Benedict issued an apology to victims and said the church made serious mistakes.
The pontiff called his choice to resign "A decision of great importance for the life of the church." And said he will dedicate the rest of his life to prayer.
In the coming weeks more than a hundred cardinals from around the world will gather at the Vatican for a conclave to elect the next pope. The cardinals lock themselves inside the Sistine Chapel until they agree on a new Pope and send white smoke to signal a decision is made.
Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr released a statement today concerning the pope's decision to resign. It reads in part... "In announcing his resignation, Pope Benedict XVI has acted humbly and unselfishly for the good of the church. That same spirit has characterized his entire life of service. In my several encounters with him I found this brilliant theologian to be unfailingly kind, hospitable and welcoming. Ultimately he was a very pastoral man who won the hearts of all Americans on his pastoral visit to the United States in 2008. I will be forever grateful to him for naming me Archbishop of Cincinnati."
The bishop of Covington - Roger Foys also released this statement. It reads... "Pope Benedict has been a faithful son of the church and has labored long and hard in the vineyard of the Lord. He has met challenges and criticism with firm faith in the Lord. We pray that the Holy Father may have the peace that comes from being faithful to the Lord, His word and His church and thank him for the example he has been to us all."