Pope Benedict XVI announced early Monday that he will resign on Feb. 28 due to concerns over failing health, the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland said.
The 85-year-old pontiff said in a statement, "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."
Pope Benedict, who was elected in April 2005, would be the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years, according to Catholic News Service.
The pope has increasingly had trouble walking in the past year, often using a cane and always being helped on stairways, CNS reported. Until now, however, the Vatican has never released medical information indicating the pope suffers from anything more than age-related joint pain.
The annoucement likely means the Vatican will hold a conclave to elect a new pope by mid-March, since the traditional mourning time that would follow a pope's death doesn't have to be observed, the Huffington Post reported.