Time to cue up the montage of your favorite papal moments over the past 8 years because earlier this morning Pope Benedict XVI announced that he is officially retiring from his important work of blessing Ferraris and denying women birth control as of February 28th of 2013. He is the first Pope to quit the job in over 600 years.
During a Monday morning meeting of Vatican Cardinals, the Pope spoke in Latin, saying:
"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 by 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 barque of St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary — strengths 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."
It is well within his rights for a Pope to resign, but it has been widely discouraged in the past out of fear that the presence of two living Popes would create a division of loyalties within the Catholic church. The last Pope to step down was Pope Gregory XII in 1415, who left his position to end the Great Western Schism among competing papal claimants.
While Benedict XVI will retire home to his native Bavaria, the Catholic church will be holding the conclave — the dramatic ritual of choosing another Pope — sometime in mid-march.
Fun fact: I was in Rome for the last conclave, which would have been a very cool experience had it not been for the vendors charging six euros per bottle of water to take advantage of the influx of tourists. Oh, well. That's what I get for trying to hydrate on Berlusconi's sex yacht.