ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images
This file picture taken on December 31, 2012 shows Pope Benedict XVI arriving to pray in front of the nativity crib in Saint Peter's Square after celebrating the Vespers and Te Deum prayers in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. Pope Benedict XVI on February 11, 2013 announced he will resign on February 28, a Vatican spokesman told AFP, which will make him the first pope to do so in centuries.
UPDATE 10:14 a.m.: The process of selecting a new pope after Pope Benedict XVI's resignation is very similar to the process of selecting one after a death. Plus, read a timeline of key events: Pope Benedict XVI: Electing a successor and a timeline of his papacy.
Also, LA's archbishop José H. Gomez issued a statement Monday morning:
"Pope Benedict XVI has truly been a Holy Father to the family of God, his Catholic Church. His decision to resign is a beautiful, Christ-like act of humility and love for the Church. This is the act of a saint, who thinks not about himself but only about the will of God and the good of God’s people."
"I have great affection for this Pope. In my opinion, he is one of the wisest persons in our world today. I try to learn every day from his words and example. I received my Archbishop’s pallium twice from him and I will always be grateful that he chose me to be the Archbishop of Los Angeles."
"Let us thank God today for the love and witness of Pope Benedict XVI. Let us entrust him to our Blessed Mother Mary and pray that he will continue to have joy and peace and many more years for prayer and reflection."
UPDATE 9:12 a.m.: Below is a statement posted by Roger Mahony on his blog Monday morning:
POPE BENEDICT XVI
STATEMENT on the RESIGNATION of
POPE BENEDICT XVI
Cardinal Roger M. Mahony
Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles
February 11, 2013
Pope Benedict XVI has been an extraordinary Successor to St. Peter these past eight years, and I thank God for the graces and blessings which have come to the Church and to the world during his Pontificate.
It was my privilege to participate in the Conclave of April 2005 when Pope Benedict was elected. I recall so clearly his words when he told the Cardinals that he was choosing the name of Benedict because of his fondness for the prayerfulness and the Rule of St. Benedict, and also because Pope Benedict XV [1914—1920] served during a time of turmoil and wars across the world.
Pope Benedict XVI began his Petrine ministry from a firm foundation of prayer, holiness, and remarkable scholarship. Before the end of 2005 he issued Deus Caritas Est, a letter on the virtue and gift of charity and love among the disciples of Jesus Christ. Two more followed: one on hope in 2007, the third on faith in 2009.
His homilies and addresses were so amazing because he was not speaking about Jesus Christ as a topic, but he was speaking about Jesus from a deep and intimate knowledge of Jesus himself. It was that attraction to the person of Jesus Christ which flowed from all his many teachings for the Church and the world.
Surely one of his great legacies will be a continuing emphasis on the need for all Catholics to exercise their role as evangelizers in the world. His focus upon the new evangelization will continue to enliven all disciples of Jesus.
The Church will continue to be blessed by his prayer lifted up for the needs of the world, as well as by his writings which will continue to nourish the minds, hearts and souls of Catholics around the world.
I look forward to traveling to Rome soon to help thank Pope Benedict XVI for his gifted service to the Church, and to participate in the Conclave to elect his successor.
PREVIOUSLY: For the first time in nearly 600 years, a pope is resigning from his post as leader of the Roman Catholic Church.
Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday morning that he is stepping down effective Feb. 28.
From Rome, NPR's Sylvia Poggioli tells the NPR Newscast that the pope is citing his advanced age (85) and diminishing strength. Sylvia says "he had been thinking about this for a long time" and appears to have "decided to do it for the good of the church."
According to The Associated Press, the pope:
"Announced his decision in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals Monday morning.
" '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 the 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.' "
The AP adds that "the last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415 in a deal to end the Great Western Schism among competing papal claimants.
Benedict has led the church since 2005. He succeeded Pope John Paul II.
The Vatican is expected to hold a conclave to elect a new pope by mid-March.
We'll have more on this story as the day continues.
Update at 8:25 a.m. ET. More About Benedict And WWII:
As Sylvia also reports, "in his early teens, at the height of WWII, [Benedict] joined the Hitler Youth — when membership was mandatory. ... Benedict rarely spoke publicly about his childhood during Nazism, or the Catholic Church's relations with the Third Reich. [But] on his first foreign trip as pope, to his native German, he visited a synagogue and addressed what he called the often painful history of relations between Christians and Jews in Germany."
During that visit, the pope called Nazi attempts to exterminate Jews "an insane racist ideology, born of neo-paganism."
Update at 7:50 a.m. ET. About Pope Benedict; And His Legacy.
From his official biography:
-- Born Joseph Ratzinger in Passau, Germany, on April 16, 1927.
-- "During the last months of [World War II] he was enrolled in an auxiliary anti-aircraft corps."
-- "From 1946 to 1951 he studied philosophy and theology in the Higher School of Philosophy and Theology of Freising and at the University of Munich. He received his priestly ordination on 29 June 1951."
-- Named archbishop of Munich on March 25, 1977 and became a cardinal later that year.
-- Became dean of the college of cardinals in 2002.
-- Elected pontiff in 2005 following the death of Pope John Paul II.
In 2010, Sylvia reported for Morning Edition on the pope's legacy at his five-year mark. As she said at the time:
"Pope Benedict XVI is at the center of a mounting scandal over pedophile priests, leading to what the weekly National Catholic Reporter calls 'the largest institutional crisis in centuries, possibly in church history.'
"The scandal could have an impact on the pope's legacy. When elected pope, Benedict was not an outsider. He had spent nearly a quarter of a century as the Vatican's top enforcer of doctrine."
Meanwhile, The Associated Press says that the pope's brother, Rev. Georg Ratzinger, says the pontiff's age "is weighing on him. ... At this age my brother wants more rest." A Vatican spokesman has also told reporters, according to Reuters, that the pope made his decision in the "last few months."
Update at 7:23 a.m. ET. The Pope's Statement:
"I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. 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.
"I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with 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 Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength 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.
"For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as 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.
"Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer."
Update at 7:15 a.m. ET. Some History On Papal Resignations.
"The number popes who may have resigned has been estimated as high as 10, but the historical evidence is limited. Most recently, during the Council of Constance in the 15th century, Gregory XII resigned to bring about the end of the Western Schism and a new pope was elected in 1417. Pope Celestine V's resignation in 1294 is the most famous because Dante placed him in hell for it.
"Most modern popes have felt that resignation is unacceptable. As Paul VI said, paternity cannot be resigned."