Pope Benedict XVI announced today that he will be the first pope in 600 years to resign, effective Feb. 28.
Benedict, 85, cites his age as the reason.
“After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry,” Benedict told cardinals as they gathered in Rome for the proclamation of new saints.
Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said a new pontiff is expected to be elected by Easter and a papal election could be expected “within 10 to 15 days.”
Prior to this, the last papal resignation was in 1417, when Gregory XII resigned to bring about the end of the Western Schism.
However, Benedict said in a 2010 interview with journalist Peter Seewald that he would resign if he felt incapable — psychologically or physically — of carrying on with his duties.
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Tracy Simmons is an award winning journalist specializing in religion reporting, digital entrepreneurship and social journalism. In her 15 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti.
Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas and Connecticut. Currently she serves as the executive director of SpokaneFAVS.com, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Wash. She is also a Scholarly Assistant Professor at Washington State University.