MILAN, ITALY - JUNE 02: Pope Benedict XVI attends the 2012 World Meeting of Families at Meazza Stadium on June 2, 2012 in Milan, Italy. The World Meeting of Families was instituted by Pope John Paul II in 1994 to promote the value of families. (Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images)
The Vatican said on Monday in a shock announcement that Pope Benedict XVI will resign his office from February 28.
The Italian news agency ANSA first reported the news, which it said was made in Latin during a meeting of cardinals in Rome.
"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.
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 St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary - strengths which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately the ministry entrusted to me."
The announcement will come as a surprise to millions of Catholics around the world.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope in 2005 after the death of John Paul II.
Pope Benedict XVI is 85 years old.
He will be the first pontiff to resign in 600 years.
Kim Hjelmgaard, USA TODAY