Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday that he will resign effective Feb. 28, the Associated Press is reporting.
The 85-year-old pontiff announced his decision in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals Monday morning, citing his "advanced age and diminishing strength."
The pope, leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics worldwide, emphasized that the duties require "both strength of mind and body."
The decision makes Benedict the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years. The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415, according to the AP report.
Born Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI was chosen in 2005 at 78 to succeed the late Pope John Paul II.
A conclave could elect a new pope by mid-March, the AP reports.
Speculation already is bubbling up about contenders to replace him and from what part of the world the new pope will be selected.
The AP has identified several possible candidates, among them several relatively traditional choices from European countries as well as Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York. Others, including CBS This Morning, have speculated that contenders could come from Latin America or other regions of the world.
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