Pope Benedict XVI has today become the first pope since the Middle Ages to resign his post, announcing he will do so at the end of the month because he lacks the strength needed for the job, reports Reuters. The move was "entirely unexpected," the BBC notes. In a statement posted to the Vatican Radio website (read in full here), the 85-year-old, who has held the position since April 2005, writes:
- "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 fulfill the ministry entrusted to me."
Noting that he is "well aware of the seriousness of this act," Benedict writes that "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." Reuters confirms that the papacy will remain vacant until a successor is selected; a Vatican official expects that interim period to be "as brief as possible."