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, including those at Baldwin Borough's Saint Albert the Great and Saint Elizabeth of Hungary churches and Whitehall Borough's St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Virgin Church and Sisters of St. Francis of the Providence of God campus, emphasized that the duties require "both strength of mind and body."
The Rev. James Orr, pastor at Saint Albert's, reacted to the news.
"Pope Benedict's abdication is one more sign of his personal humility," Rev. Orr said. "Behind the scenes, before he was Pope and after, he was known for the way he treated anyone with deference.
"Power is not what is important to him but being a true follower of Jesus who 'came to serve, not to be served.' It is also a 'sign of contradiction' to the powers of the world who cannot imagine surrendering power voluntarily.
"The favored title of the Pope is 'Servant of the Servants of God.' Yes, he is, and the final act of service that Pope Benedict will do is to surrender his office for the good of all those he serves in the Church.
"He is truly an example to us all."
The decision to resign makes Benedict the first pope to do so in nearly 600 years. The last pope to resign was Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415, according to the AP report.
Born Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI was chosen in 2005 at age 78 to succeed the late Pope John Paul II.
A conclave could elect a new pope by mid-March, The AP reports.
Speculation already is bubbling up about contenders to replace Benedict and from what part of the world that the new pope will be from.
The AP has identified several possible candidates, among them several relatively traditional choices from European countries, as well as Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York. Others, including "CBS This Morning," have speculated that contenders could come from Latin America or other regions of the world.
Read the full transcript here of Pope Benedict's resignation statement.
What are your thoughts on the pope resigning? What did you think of his leadership?
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