BOSTON (CBS) – In a stunning announcement Monday, the Vatican said Pope Benedict XVI will resign on Feb. 28.
He’s the first pontiff to do that in nearly 600 years.
The pope told Cardinals during a meeting Monday he feels too old and weak to go on leading the Roman Catholic Church.
Read: The Pope’s Announcement
“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,” the pontiff said in a statement published on the Vatican website.
Benedict is 85 years old. He will turn 86 in April.
“This was speculated several months ago,” former Boston Mayor and former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Ray Flynn told WBZ-TV.
Benedict, who was born Joseph Ratzinger in Germany, was elected pope in 2005 at the age of 78 after Pope John Paul II died.
Flynn said there was some thought at the time that Ratzinger didn’t want to be pope because of his advanced age.
“This is not exactly a big surprise, although it really will change the landscape of the Catholic Church throughout the world.”
“He’s a very, gentle, simple, pious man who is really not somebody that wanted to be in the limelight, on center stage, right from the very beginning and, so, I think he wants time for himself and probably wants to move on to let somebody else come in and do the job, which is a very, very difficult job. (It) requires a lot of travel,” Flynn said.
“He did a wonderful job. He’s a wonderful man.”
Flynn talks to WBZ NewsRadio 1030′s Joe Mathieu
Cardinals from the across the world will come together and cast their vote for a new pope at a conclave at the Vatican in mid-March.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030′s Kim Tunnicliffe reports
The election is a lifetime appointment, which is why Benedict’s announcement caught so many people off guard.
The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII in 1415.
Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley issued this statement Monday afternoon:
“The Catholic community and the world today learned that Pope Benedict XVI, following deep prayer and reflection, announced that he will resign the papacy at the end of this month. We join the universal Church in offering prayerful gratitude for the Holy Father’s faith, courage and his leadership as the successor of Peter.
At this time it is appropriate for the Church and all people of good faith to reflect on Pope Benedict’s legacy and achievements. He brought unique capabilities to the papacy as a highly qualified scholar and teacher, and as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in service to Blessed John Paul II. His fidelity to maintaining the truth and clarity of the Catholic faith, to cultivating ecumenical and interfaith dialogue and in reaching out to inspire the next generation of Catholics have been great gifts to us all.
It was a great privilege for me to be present as Pope Benedict met with survivors of clergy sexual abuse during his visit to the United States in April 2008. At that meeting the Holy Father’s pastoral care for the survivors was clearly evident, as was his commitment and determination to heal the wounds of all persons impacted by the abuse crisis and to insure that the Church continues to do all that is possible to provide for the protection of children.
During the coming weeks we will continue to pray for Pope Benedict XVI and will call upon the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit as the Church moves forward to choose the next successor to Saint Peter.”