(VATICAN CITY) — Pope Benedict XVI’s unprecedented announcement Monday that he will resign Feb. 28 brings to a close one of the shortest papacies in history, for which the pontiff will leave a legacy as a leader with views in line with church tradition, but also as one who worked during a controversial reign to advance religious links cross the globe.
The pope’s decision, which he announced in Latin on Monday during a meeting of Vatican cardinals, makes him the first pontiff to resign in nearly 600 years. It was perhaps the most shocking moment of his nearly eight years as leader of the world’s roughly one billion Catholics, years in which he worked on religious outreach.
Such efforts resulted recently in a new Twitter account, which the Vatican launched in late-2012. But true to his traditional worldview, he cautioned the world’s Catholics at his Christmas 2012 Mass about the risk of technology’s pushing God out of their lives.
Benedict XVI was the oldest pope to be elected at age 78 on April 19, 2005. He was the first German pope since the 11th century and his reign will rank as one of the shortest in history at seven years, 10 months and three days.
The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415.
Vatican officials said they’ve noticed that he has been getting weaker, while Benedict said he is aware of the significance of his decision and made it freely.
A conclave to elect a new pope will take place before the end of March.
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