Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday that he will resign effective Feb. 28, the Associated Press is reporting.
Local Catholic leaders were surprised by the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI on Monday morning, but also called it a “powerful move” of strength by the pope for the church.
The Rev. Jay Donahue, pastor of Sts. Simon & Jude Church in Scott Township, suspects Pope Benedict looked back at the last years of Pope John Paul II’s lengthy tenure and decided it was not in the church’s best interest at this time.
“I think the pope is settling a startling example of humility,” he said. “Here he is leading the world’s biggest church, and he looks at his own physicality and says he’s not up to it anymore. So many people want to be leaders, and he’s saying he needs to step down.”
Rev. Donahue also posted a formal statement on the church's website about the pope's decision. Click here to read the full statement on Sts. Simon & Jude's website.
According to the AP, the 85-year-old pontiff announced his decision in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals on Monday morning citing his "advanced age and diminishing strength.".
The pope, leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics worldwide, emphasized that the duties require "both strength of mind and body."
The decision makes Benedict the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years, with the last pope to resign being Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415, according to the AP report.
Born Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI was chosen in 2005 at 78 to succeed the late Pope John Paul II.
A conclave could elect a new pope by mid-March, the AP reports.
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