Rome (CNN) — Pope Benedict XVI will resign on February 28, his spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told CNN Monday. The 85-year-old pope is resigning “because of advanced age,” Benedict told the cardinals of the Catholic Church on Monday. “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 pope told the cardinals, according to the Vatican.
The last pope to resign was Gregory XII in 1415. He did so to end a civil war within the church in which more than one man claimed to be pope.
Last year, he was also said to resign due to the scandal caused by the arrest of his personal butler, Paolo Gabriele, on suspicion of leaking confidential documents. Gabriele, one of only a handful of people with access to the pontiff’s private desk, has been charged with aggravated theft for allegedly stealing private documents. He is suspected of leaking the papers to an Italian journalist.
A top Roman Catholic Church official, Archbishop Angelo Becciu, told the Vatican’s official newspaper the theft of the documents was “an immoral act of unprecedented gravity” and a “despicable abuse of the relationship of trust that exists between Benedict XVI and those who turn to him.” With the leaks, he said, the pope’s very ministry “has come under attack.”
But observers say the scandal lifts the lid on a secret power struggle going on behind the closed doors of the Catholic Church. The alleged documents leak, along with the firing of the head of the Vatican Bank last year, are aimed at weakening the authority of the pope’s second-in-command, they say.
More on last year’s scandal available on CNN’s page HERE.