VATICAN CITY (WKOW) -- Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday that he would step down at the end of the month. He's the first pontiff to resign in nearly 600 years.
The pope says that carrying out his duties requires "both strength of mind and body."
"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 a meeting of Vatican 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 fulfill the ministry entrusted to me."
The pope's brother, Georg Ratzinger, says the pontiff had been told by doctors not to take any more transatlantic trips and he had been considering stepping down for months. Ratzinger said his brother was having a hard time walking and his resignation was part of a "natural process."
"His age is weighing on him," the 89-year-old said of his 85-year-old brother. "At this age my brother wants more rest."
The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415.
The move sets the stage for the Vatican to hold a conclave to elect a new pope by mid-March, since the traditional mourning time that would follow the death of a pope doesn't have to be observed.
There are several papal contenders in the wings, but no obvious front-runner -- the same situation when Benedict was elected pontiff in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II.
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