February 28th will see an even that has only happened once before in the history of the Catholic Church. 85 year old Pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI will step aside as the leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics due to fatigue.
Speaking in Latin, the 85-year-old announced his decision during an address at the “Concistory for the canonization of the martyrs of Otranto”, a small event held early in the morning.
The decision makes him the first pope to resign since the Middle Ages.
The Pope made the following statement which was broadcast on the Vatican Radio Website:
“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.”
The Pope’s brother Georg Ratzinger, who lives in Germany, told reporters that he had been considering this for some time. The Pope has difficulty walking, and admitted his age is making physical activity difficult for him.
There are several candidates who will be considered as his replacement. Among those in contention are Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, the archbishop of Vienna, and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Canadian head of the Vatican’s office for bishops.
Pope Benedict XVI was born in Bavaria, Germany in 1927. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became the 265th Pope in April 2005. He served with the Hitler Youth when it was compulsory, but never was a member of the Nazi Party, denouncing Hitler. His tough stance on theological issues earned him the nickname “God’s Rottweiler”.
The last Pope to step down was Gregory XII in 1415, an action to end the “Great Western Schism”.