Pope Benedict is stepping down on Feb. 28, becoming the first pontiff in 600 years to resign. The 85-year-old pope says he lacks the strength to fulfill his duties.
Click here to read Pope Benedict's complete statement via Catholic Online.
The surprise announcement came Monday during a meeting of Vatican cardinals. It sets the stage for a conclave in March to elect a new leader for world's 1 billion Catholics.
Benedict says that carrying out the duties of being pope requires "both strength of mind and body." And he says he has concluded that his strengths "are no longer suited" to doing the job adequately.
The Vatican says no specific medical condition prompted Benedict's decision. In recent years, the pope has slowed down significantly, cutting back his foreign travel and limiting his audiences. His 89-year-old brother says doctors had recently advised the pope not to take any more trans-Atlantic trips.
Benedict had made clear in the past he would step down if he became too old or infirm to do the job. When he was elected in 2005 at age 78, he was the oldest pope chosen in nearly 300 years and had been planning to retire to his native Bavaria.
In and around Quincy t here wa s mixed reaction to the news. And people are already expressing opinions on what kind of person they would like to see become the next pope.
Father Michael Kuse, Dean of the Quincy Denery recently celebrated his 45th anniversary of being a priest.
During his time, he's served under four popes. By the spring he'll see his fifth pope celebrate mass at the Vatican. Kuse said the church changed under Pope John Paul II and under Benedict XVI it's changed to more of a theologian type of church.
Kuse knows the next man to wear the white mitre will have to be a person of stamina and durability.
"I don't think any of us can put ourselves in that skin. And I think if he gave any encouragement to the conclave and the cardinals who will elect his successor, it would be please pray, that the person you put in here has the stamina to do this," Kuse said.
Pope Benedict XVI was 78-years-old when he was selected to succeed John Paul II. Benedict will be 85 when he retires.
When we visited with two seniors at Quincy Notre Dame High School, the announcement came as a surprise to them. But Jenny Wellman and Steven Musholt would like to see a pope who can connect with younger members of the catholic church.
"I was just really surprised that, I wasn't expecting it at all. I mean I don't think anybody was really expecting to hear that. It's not that I would necessarily want somebody younger. But somebody that could relate to young people to get them more excited about this religion and being a catholic," Wellman said.
"Pope Benedict was obviously an elder gentleman, so as long as there's this new rejuvenation for the catholic faith I think that any pope would want to do that would definitely be a good fill," Musholt said.
Kuse said there about 100 voting members in the conclave who will select the next pope. He said he wouldn't be surprised if that person is selected from a third world country. Continuing the current trend of selecting a pope who isn't of Italian descent.
There was a split reaction on our Facebook page Monday morning as Chad D. Comer remarked, "... Maybe now they can get someone who can unite people instead of divide. ..." Marcie Seymour Lenover said, "I think he is making the right decision. If you cannot do a job, let someone else who can."
Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois is expected to make a statement Monday, so stay here for updates to this story.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)
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