The 85-year-old Pope announced the decision during a meeting with cardinals on Monday.
He claimed that the strength “has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”
The pontiff will officially step down at 1900 GMT on February 28. His office will remain vacant until a successor is chosen.
The Pope further added that he is aware of the seriousness of his decision, which is an unprecedented move in the modern history of the Catholic Church.
Born in 1927, Benedict XVI is the 265th Pope, a position in which he serves dual roles as Sovereign of the Vatican City State and leader of the Catholic Church. He succeeded John Paul II following his death in 2005.
The decision comes as the Vatican has been under pressure due to scandals involving financial corruption allegations, media leaks from Pope’s own butler, and even reports of links with the mafia.
The scandal known as “Vatileaks” came to light in January 2012, when a series of the Holy See’s internal documents were leaked to Italian media, causing a stir nationwide.
Following the incident, the Italian Journalist, Gianluigi Nuzzi, also fueled the fire by releasing a book called “His Holiness.”
The book shed light on power struggles in the Vatican by presenting secret documents and confidential letters to and from the Pope and his personal secretary.
In May 2012, Vatican authorities arrested Paolo Gabriele, the Pope’s butler, on suspicion of being behind the leaks and charged him with 18 months in jail. However, he was later pardoned.
Other reports also emerged in the Italian media in June 2012, linking the Vatican with Sicilian mafia heads.
The reports came out after the head of the Vatican Bank, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, was dismissed amid claims of power struggles and corruption within the Holy See.
He had reportedly been under investigation for laundering money for a Mafia godfather.
In addition, the Catholic Church has recently come under the spotlight over accusations that it had covered up sexual abuse of children by priests to protect paedophiles and its own reputation.
- RT: Pope Benedict XVI to resign, first pontiff to quit since Middle Ages (jhaines6.wordpress.com)