Pope Benedict XVI will resign his position as the leader of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church, effective on Feb. 28, the Vatican announced early Monday morning.
The pontiff said in a statement that old age has rendered him "no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry."
Pope Benedict will be the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years. The last was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down from the position in 1415.
Benedict was born in 1927 as Joseph Ratzinger in Germany. He was elected to the papacy on April 19, 2005, becoming the 265th pope.
During his nearly eight years as the leader of the Catholic Church, Benedict faced much of the sexual abuse allegations brought to the Vatican from around the world, and himself faced criticism for how he handled those claims.
He was also the first pontiff to speak to his followers over Twitter.
Reports suggest that this resignation came as a surprise to other Vatican officials, and cardinals are already being favored to succeed Benedict.
Namely, The Guardian reports that Ghana's Peter Turkson is one of those favored. Should he assume the role, Turkson would be the first African pontiff in modern times.
Benedict will formally step down on Feb. 28 at 8 p.m. local time. Meaning, on that day in Columbia, the highest position of the Roman Catholic Church will be vacant at 1 p.m.
(Ryan Schuessler interned for ColumbiaFAVS in fall 2012. He is currently studying abroad in Spain.)