Pope Benedict XVI stunned the Roman Catholic world Monday announcing he was stepping down in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals.
The 85-year-old pontiff cited age and declining health for his reasons. He said "both strength of mind and body" are needed to lead the 1 billion-member church. Benedict is the first pope to resign in 600 years.
"I feel confident that this was a decision made by him and the Holy Spirit," Bishop James Conley said.
Bishop James Conley of the Lincoln Diocese worked with then, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger for 10 years in Rome. He calls the Pope's decision humbling.
"It's a sad day for me because we are going to miss his leadership. But at the same time, I have so much respect for him. I know this was a decision that he made after much prayer and much discernment," Bishop Conley said.
Benedict only served seven years but was full of firsts: the first pope to tweet, the oldest pope elected in more than 300 years, and he was elected in 2005 in one of the fastest conclaves in history - about 24 hours.
Bishop Conley won't speculate on who will take over next, but he knows the next pope has some big shoes to fill.
"Whether or not he would be from Europe, or the Americas or the third world - those are all distinct possibilities. Or an Italian; maybe it's time to go back to another Italian," Bishop Conley said.
Benedict's resignation is official February 28th and the process of selecting a new pope will begin March 1st. A new pope will be elected before Easter.
The Pope is stepping down in three weeks. The Vatican surprised the world announcing Monday morning that Pope Benedict XVI will resign. Popes have resigned before but not in modern time. This will make him the first pontiff to leave the papacy in nearly 600 years.In a shocking announcement, Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday he will resign at the end of this month. The 85-year old Pope said he came to this decision after realizing he's not as strong as he used to be due to his age.
Joseph Ratzinger was born in Germany, in 1927 to a traditional Bavarian farming family. Shortly after he turned 14, he, like most young Germans at the time, was forced to join the Hitler youth. But he was not a willing participant
When he returned to Germany as Pontiff, he became only the second Pope in history to visit a synagogue.
But in 2006 he enraged Muslims around the world when, during a speech, he quoted a 14th century Christian Emperor who said Muhammad brought only "evil and inhuman" things to the world.
Benedict would also reach out to Muslims, continuing the drive toward inter- faith dialogue begun by his predecessor.
He also addressed the sex abuse crisis within the Catholic church meeting privately with victims of pedophile priests during his trip to the U.S. in 2008.
He never veered far from his conservative beliefs. The pontiff condemned gay marriage, the ordination of women, and allowing priests to marry.
Although critics felt Pope Benedict XVI was not progressive enough for the changing times, supporters saw a steadfast leader who helped anchor their faith.
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