Pope Benedict XVI, on Saturday at the Vatican.For the first time in nearly 600 years, a pope is resigning from his post as leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday morning that he is stepping down effective Feb. 28.

From Rome, NPR’s Sylvia Poggioli tells the NPR Newscast that the pope is citing his advanced age (85) and diminishing strength. Sylvia says “he had been thinking about this for a long time” and appears to have “decided to do it for the good of the church.”

According to The Associated Press, the pope:

“Announced his decision in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals Monday morning.

” ‘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,’ he told the cardinals. ‘I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only by words and deeds but no less with prayer and suffering.’ ”

The AP adds that “the last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415 in a deal to end the Great Western Schism among competing papal claimants.

Benedict has led the church since 2005. He succeeded Pope John Paul II.

The Vatican is expected to hold a conclave to elect a new pope by mid-March.

We’ll have more on this story as the day continues.

Update at 7:23 a.m. ET. The Pope’s Statement:

“Dear Brothers,

“I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. 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.

“I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, 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.

“For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as 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.

“Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.”

Update at 7:15 a.m. ET. Some History On Papal Resignations.

National Catholic Reporter writes that:

“The number popes who may have resigned has been estimated as high as 10, but the historical evidence is limited. Most recently, during the Council of Constance in the 15th century, Gregory XII resigned to bring about the end of the Western Schism and a new pope was elected in 1417. Pope Celestine V’s resignation in 1294 is the most famous because Dante placed him in hell for it.

“Most modern popes have felt that resignation is unacceptable. As Paul VI said, paternity cannot be resigned.”

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
 

Comments are closed.

News

YouTube
July 30, 2014 | NPR · The 4,000-ton freight train could not come to a stop. But the women laid down between the rails and survived.
 

July 30, 2014 | NPR · The news from the Commerce Department comes after the economy shrank at a 2.1 percent rate in the first quarter of the year. The numbers raise hope for continued growth in the second half of 2014.
 

AP
July 30, 2014 | NPR · One U.N. official said this was a “breaking point.” The conflict, now going into its 23rd day, shows no sign of abating. The death toll in Gaza has now surpassed 1,200.
 

Arts & Life

Getty Images
July 30, 2014 | NPR · Is Comic-Con as overwhelming as you’ve heard? Well … yes and no. Mostly yes. But on the other hand, it’s also completely fascinating, even to nervous first-timers.
 

July 30, 2014 | NPR · Also: Rand Paul plans to come out with a book in 2015; Jesse Ventura was awarded almost $2 million in a defamation suit.
 

July 30, 2014 | OZY · Author Christiane Dorion distills complex scientific concepts into bite-sized explanations. “You can teach anything to children if you pitch it at the right level and use the right words,” she says.
 

Music

Courtesy of the artist
July 30, 2014 | NPR · Download new music from Hiss Golden Messenger, Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis, Azekel, Beach Day, Strand of Oaks, The Wytches, Christian Gregory, KING, Jonah Tolchin and The Acid.
 

Courtesy of the artist
July 29, 2014 | WXPN · For the U.S. release, singer-songwriter John Grant fashioned English lyrics to go with the Icelandic musician’s melodies. For our Vintage Cafe today, Ásgeir sings live in the World Cafe studios.
 

Courtesy of the artist
July 29, 2014 | NPR · “Cowboy” Jack Clement produced and wrote songs for the likes of Johnny Cash and George Jones. On his final album, the late visionary reclaims some of those tunes and makes them his own.
 

Get the KRCC iPhone App

The Writer's Almanac

Radiolab