Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday morning that he will resign, effective Feb. 28, according to the Associated Press.
CNN reported that a spokesman for the pope did not give a reason for the decision, announced during a meeting of Vatican cardinals, but according to the AP, the 85-year-old pontiff cited his "advanced age and diminishing strength."
The decision makes Benedict the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years, according to the AP report.
Born Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI was chosen in 2005 to succeed the late Pope John Paul II.
The Vatican could hold a conclave to elect a new pope by mid-March, according to the AP.
Fr. William Vagenas, Parochial Vicar of St. Michael Parish School in Wheaton provided the following response to the Pope's decision:
Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to resign comes as a surprise to all of us. Yet, it is consistent with his humble disposition that he has shown in his time as earthly shepherd of the Church.
...The Holy Father, as well as the College of Cardinals, remains in our daily prayers.
Bishop R. Daniel Conlon of the Diocese of Joliet, of which St. Michael School is a part of, posted a statement on the diocese's website regarding the pope's resigation Monday morning.
Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to resign comes as a surprise to all of us. Yet, it is consistent with the humble disposition that I have come to recognize in him, both in my brief personal encounters with him and in his deportment generally as earthly shepherd of the Church. He recognized that he no longer had the physical gifts necessary to carry out an office that becomes increasingly demanding.
The Holy Father has been a true blessing to us. He has been able to express the truths of faith in ways that are comprehensible for our times. He has been a steady and calm presence in the face of tumult in the world. He has persevered in Blessed John Paul II’s determination to confront the scandal of child abuse in the Church.
Because the Church was founded by Christ and lives by the Holy Spirit, we have no reason to worry about the future. The College of Cardinals will be convened a few days after February 28 and elect a new Bishop of Rome in accord with exiting norms. Our task, as members of the Body of Christ, is to seek the guidance and strength of the Holy Spirit for the cardinals and to pray for a peaceful future for Pope Benedict.
Plainfield Patch editor Shannon Antinori first posted this story.