Pope Benedict XVI announced that he would resign his post on February 28 ending his eight year reign as the titular head of the Catholic Church. In a surprise announcement, the pontiff stated that his deteriorating health prevented him from continuing on with his ministry. He is the first sitting pontiff to resign the office since 1415. Then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was 78 years old when he was elected pope by the Conclave of Cardinals; making him the oldest cardinal in history to take over the reins of the church.
Pope Benedict’s legacy will be that he returned the church to its more traditional values. In US political terms he would be considered a right wing conservative. History will also judge him for handling of the church’s sexual abuse scandal.
Benedict is the latest in a long line of pontiffs to succeed the first pope, the apostle Peter, whom Catholics believe was appointed by Jesus Christ to head His church.
While this resignation will not mean much to non-Catholics; for the 1.2 billion who practice the Catholic faith it is a very big deal. Catholics believe that the pope is infallible when it comes to speaking on matters of faith. They will be looking to see if the new pontiff will take a more moderate stance on contraception, homosexuality and women in the priesthood.
The Conclave of Cardinals is expected to meet sometime in mid-March for the purpose of electing a new leader for the Catholic Church.