This morning, Pope Benedict XVI shocked the Roman Catholic world by announcing that he will be resigning on Feb. 28, after less than eight years in office. Citing his advanced age and ill-health as the reason for his leaving, the 85-year-old is the first pope to resign in 600 years.

 

The pope, whose papacy was somewhat overshadowed with clerical abuse scandals, announced his monumental decision during a meeting of cardinals in Rome.  In a statement that has since taken the social media by storm, he said:

 "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 an adequate exercise" of his position. 

The announcement took many by surprise, including Italy's prime minister, Mario Monti, who said he "was very shaken" by the news, and Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi. Lombardi revealed that the pope would continue to carry out his duties until the end of the month and that a successor (chosen by a conclave of cardinals) could be elected by Easter.

At the time of his election, Pope Benedict XVI was a popular choice within the college ardinals who chose him, but his papacy was overshaded by clerical abuse scandals.

Read more ¿Qué más? The priest who restored my belief in the Catholic Church

I have to be honest: I am not a very religious person at all. That being said, even I can recognize how huge and impactful this decision is on everyone who follows Catholicism. A new pope could change the direction of the church, particularly since Pope Benedict XVI is profoundly conservative, much more so than some of his predecessors.  

But perhaps change could be good. If the pope doesn't feel able to fulfill his role to the best of his abilities, then he's doing the right thing in stepping down. And now that he has, this might be an opportunity for the ministry to pick a more modern, forward-thinking leader who will inspire and motivate the next generation of Catholics.

Image via Flickr/Sergey Gabdurakhmanov

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About the author

Michelle Regalado is a Staff Writer at MamásLatinas. She loves reading, travel, pop culture, and writing about anything and everything.

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