(NEWSER) – Pope Benedict XVI has today become the first pope since the Middle Ages to resign his post, announcing he will do so at the end of the month because he lacks the strength needed for the job, reports Reuters. The move was "entirely unexpected," the BBC notes. In a statement posted to the Vatican Radio website (read in full here), the 85-year-old, who has held the position since April 2005, writes:
Noting that he is "well aware of the seriousness of this act," Benedict writes that "from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is." Reuters confirms that the papacy will remain vacant until a successor is selected; a Vatican official expects that interim period to be "as brief as possible."
President Obama issued the following statement:
“On behalf of Americans everywhere, Michelle and I wish to extend our appreciation and prayers to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. Michelle and I warmly remember our meeting with the Holy Father in 2009, and I have appreciated our work together over these last four years. The Church plays a critical role in the United States and the world, and I wish the best to those who will soon gather to choose His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI’s successor.”
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