Among the 78 million Catholics in the U.S. who woke up this morning, there was probably a fair share of cereal spitting, seat jolting, and perhaps even some creative uses of the word "Holy!" when word got out that Pope Benedict XVI will resign his papal office at the end of this month.
His surprising decision will be the first time a pope has resigned in almost six centuries, says CNN, but unlike his 13th century predecessor, Greogry XII, who left his office in 1415 due to infighting within the church, Pope Benedict has decided to relinquish his duties due to "advanced age."
"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," the 85-year-old pope stated, according to the Vatican.
Cardinals will meet to choose a new pope and will make their decision before Easter.
As for Pope Benedict, who was born Joseph Ratzinger, he is said to most likely spend the remainder of his life focused on prayer and self-reflection at a monastery.
Ratzinger took over the papacy in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II. His time in office was steeped in controversy—not only because of his theologically conservative views but also due to the rampant child sex abuse scandals within the church, which some Catholics believe he allowed to continue while serving as archbishop in Munich.
For his part as pope, Benedict implemented new and stricter rules to stop the abuse, which he said "disfigured their ministry" and cast a shameful shadow on the church.
With all of these things considered, how do you feel about the pope's resignation?