Pope Benedict XVI made a shocking announcement during a meeting of Vatican cardinals today:
He will become the first pontiff in 600 years to resign his post later this month, citing health concerns as the basis for a decision that will officially take place on February 28.
According to The Associated Press, the 85-year old believes that his advanced age and diminishing strength make it difficult to fulfill the job.
“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,” the pope told the cardinals, according to the Vatican.
The last pope to resign was Gregory XII in 1415. He took that step to end a civil war within the church in which multiple men claimed to be hold the position.
Benedict’s reign as pope has been marred by a slew of scandals and controversies, including numerous allegations of sexual abuse by priests. He also joined Twitter in December.