Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world Monday by saying he will resign at the end of the month "because of advanced age." Forbes says he is the fifth most powerful man in the world - mostly because he leads nearly 1.2 billion followers worldwide.
OutFront tonight: Sister Simone Campbell, executive director, Network, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby and Brian Finnerty, U.S. communications director for Opus Dei.
Too tired to go on, Pope Benedict resigns
The spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, Pope Benedict XVI, surprised the world Monday by saying he will resign at the end of the month "because of advanced age."
It's the first time a pope has stepped down in nearly 600 years.
"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," said Benedict, 85, according to the Vatican.
The news startled and shocked the Catholic world and led to frenzied speculation about who would replace him.
Analysts and experts immediately began debating the merits of naming a pontiff from the developing world, where the church continues to grow, versus one from Europe, where it has deep historical roots.
Cardinals will meet to choose Benedict's successor sometime after his official resignation on February 28, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said at a news conference.
"Before Easter, we will have the new pope," he said.