By Hada Messia, CNN
Rome (CNN) – The spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Catholics, Pope Benedict XVI, surprised the world Monday by saying will resign at the end of the month "because of advanced age."
It's the first time a pope has resigned in nearly 600 years.
"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," the pope said, according to the Vatican.
After Benedict's resignation becomes effective on February 28, cardinals will meet to choose a new leader for the church.
Watch Pope Benedict XVI's 2005 Inaugural Mass
"Before Easter, we will have the new pope," the Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said at a news conference.
The decision was not impulsive, he said.
"It's not a decision he has just improvised," Lombardi said. "It's a decision he has pondered over."
After his resignation, Benedict, 85, will probably retire to a monastery and devote himself to a life of reflection and prayer, he said.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, said the decision "shocked and surprised everyone."
"Yet, on reflection, I am sure that many will recognise it to be a decision of great courage and characteristic clarity of mind and action," he said.
Benedict - born Joseph Ratzinger - will not be involved in choosing a new pope or in guiding the church after his resignation, Lombardi said.
Benedict was elected pope in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II, the third-longest-serving leader of the Catholic Church.
He has served during a time in which the church is declining in his native Europe but expanding in Africa and Latin America.
His papacy also has been marked with a series of scandals and controversies, including hundreds of new allegations of sexual abuse by priests.
Ratzinger was born on April 16, 1927, in Marktl Am Inn, Bavaria, a heavily Catholic region of Germany.
He spent his adolescent years in Traunstein, near the Austrian border, during the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler.
Ratzinger wrote in his memoirs that school officials enrolled him in the Hitler Youth movement against his will when in 1941, when he was 14.
He said he was allowed to leave the organization because he was studying for the priesthood, but was drafted into the army in 1943. He served with an anti-aircraft unit until he deserted in the waning days of WW II.
After the war, he resumed his theological studies and was ordained in 1951. He received his doctorate in theology two years later and taught dogma and theology at German universities for several years.
In 1962, he served as a consultant during the pivotal Vatican II council to Cardinal Frings, a reformer who was the archbishop of Cologne, Germany.
As a young priest, Ratzinger was on the progressive side of theological debates, but began to shift right after the student revolutions of 1968, CNN Vatican analyst John Allen Jr. said.
In his book "Cardinal Ratzinger: The Vatican's Enforcer of the Faith," Allen says Ratzinger is a shy and gentle person whose former students spoke of him as a well-prepared and caring professor.
Pope Paul VI named him archbishop of Munich in 1977 and promoted him to cardinal the next month. Ratzinger served as archbishop of Munich until 1981, when he was nominated by John Paul II to be the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a position he held until his election as pope.
He became dean of the College of Cardinals in November 2002 and in that role called the cardinals to Rome for the conclave that elected him the 265th pope.
In his initial appearance as pope, he told the crowd in St. Peter's Square that he would serve as "a simple and humble worker in the vineyards of the Lord."
He is the sixth German to serve as pope and the first since the 11th century.
The last pope to resign was Gregory XII in 1415. He did so to end a civil war within the church in which more than one man claimed to be pope.
CNN's Chelsea J. Carter, Richard Allen Greene, Holly Yan and Michael Pearson contributed to this report.
And now for the real reason:
Recognizing the flaws, follies and frauds in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, the "bowers", kneelers" and "pew peasants" are converging these religions into some simple rules of life. No koran, bible, pope, clerics, nuns, monks, imams, evangelicals, ayatollahs, rabbis, professors of religion or priests needed or desired.
Ditto for houses of "worthless worship" aka mosques, churches, basilicas, cathedrals, temples and synagogues.
Cartmaster: "Bring out yer dead! Bring out your dead!"
[a man puts a body on the cart]
Vatican: "Here's one."
Cartmaster: "That'll be ninepence."
Not Quite Dead Pope: "I'm not dead."
Vatican: "Nothing. There's your ninepence."
Cartmaster: '"Ere, he says he's not dead."
Vatican: "Yes he is."
Not Quite Dead Pope: "I'm not."
Cartmaster: "He isn't."
Vatican: "Well, he will be soon, he's very ill."
Not Quite Dead Pope: "I'm getting better."
Vatican: "No you're not, you'll be stone dead in a moment."
Cartmaster: "Well, I can't take him like that. It's against regulations."
Not Quite Dead Pope: "I don't want to go on the cart."
Vatican: "Oh, don't be such a baby."
Cartmaster: "I can't take him."
Not Quite Dead Pope: "I feel fine."
Vatican: "Oh, do me a favor."
Cartmaster: "I can't."
Vatican: "Well, can you hang around for a couple of minutes? He won't be long."
Cartmaster: "I promised I'd be at the Robinsons'. They've lost nine today."
Vatican: "Well, when's your next round?"
Not Quite Dead Pope: "I think I'll go for a walk."
Vatican: "You're not fooling anyone, you know. Isn't there anything you could do?"
Not Quite Dead Pope: "I feel happy. I feel happy."
[Cartmaster glances up and down the street furtively, then silences the Pope with his a whack of his club]
Vatican: "Ah, thank you very much."
Cartmaster: "Not at all. See you on Thursday."
Monty Python And The Holy Grail. Nice.
Headline should read:
"Ex-Nazi Child Molestation Conspirator Resigns In Disgrace Due To “Advanced Age”"
That's the way I read it.
Could be that Popeferatu got too much sun.
"In 2010, The New York Times reported that church officials, including Ratzinger, had failed to act in the case of a Wisconsin priest accused of molesting up to 200 boys. The Times reported that church officials stopped proceedings against the priest after he wrote Ratzinger, who was at the time the cardinal in charge of the group that oversees Catholic Church doctrine."
it has always been the church's policy to protect child molesters and NOT their victims. benedict knew about it. all the pope's have known about it. bendict is stepping down so he can take over as head of NAMBLA.
Bene's apparently forgotten the little-known but all important 11th Commandment: Thou shalt not resign as Pope.
Maybe this will make it a little clearer, just like the other ten:
Thou – meaning you
1. Shalt – meaning yes
2. Not – meaning no
...resign as pope.
So now you also know how the snake's forked tongue works its wiles. Really nasty little programming loopback glitch in the human brain that doesn't quite know how to handle affirmations followed by an immediate negation – like shall not or do not. I recommend taking two tablets with some kind of writing on them, I guess like an aspirin, and call me tomorrow .
Begone, RatSnake. Begone.
I miss the days when the would simply murder the one Pope, and then put in another.
This is a travesty of Justice.
He should have been poisoned like the rest.
Now CNN cant make millions of the funeral coverage of a child molester.
He's not fucking dead, you dolt.
Not yet, but I am patient
Whats a few more weeks of chilling the champagne?
True. Hope it's good bubbly.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.