VATICAN CITY (AP) — His decision to resign may have come as a surprise to many -- but in fact, Pope Benedict laid the groundwork for today's decision years ago, when he said popes have the obligation to resign if they can't carry on.
And to many, his decision was perfectly in keeping with a man who had dedicated his life to the church while acknowledging that it needed new blood to confront the future.
When he was elected the 265th leader of the Church in April of 2005, Benedict -- at 78 -- was the oldest pope elected in 275 years, and the first German pope in nearly 1,000 years.
Benedict always cast himself as the reluctant pope -- a shy bookworm who preferred solitary walks in the Alps to the public glare and the Vatican pageantry. But once in office, he never shied from charting the Catholic Church on the course he thought it needed.
The German theologian set out to reawaken Christianity in a secularized Europe. But he grew increasingly frail -- even as he dealt with the fallout from a sex abuse scandal that had festered under Pope John Paul II and became the church's biggest crisis in decades.
He also faced a betrayal from one of his closest aides. Benedict's own butler was convicted of stealing the pontiff's personal papers and giving them to a journalist.
233-a-16-(Father John Wauck (wahk), Opus Dei (OH'-puhs DAY'-ee) priest and professor, Pontifical University of The Holy Cross, in AP interview)-"an older man"-Father John Wauck, an Opus Dei priest and professor at Rome's Pontifical University of The Holy Cross, says the pope's resignation is an act of responsibility and of love for the church. (11 Feb 2013)
<<CUT *233 (02/11/13)>> 00:16 "an older man"
238-a-12-(Vincent Camastro (kuh-MAS'-troh), St. Patrick's Cathedral visitor, in AP interview)-"throughout the world"-St. Patrick's Cathedral visitor Vincent Camastro says he's sorry to see Pope Benedict resign. (11 Feb 2013)
<<CUT *238 (02/11/13)>> 00:12 "throughout the world"
218-a-12-(Father James Gardiner, in interview outside St. Matthew's Cathedral)-"walking the walk"-Father James Gardner says the pope is just acknowledging the infirmities that come with getting older. (11 Feb 2013)
<<CUT *218 (02/11/13)>> 00:12 "walking the walk"
GRAPHICSBANK: Pope Benedict XVI, over textured Vatican flag, partial gaphic (11 Feb 2013)
APPHOTO NYJC501: FILE - In this Dec. 25, 2008, file photo, Pope Benedict XVI holds the pastoral staff as he celebrates Christmas midnight Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. Declaring that he lacks the strength to do his job, Benedict announced Monday Feb. 11, 2013, he will resign Feb. 28 — becoming the first pontiff to step down in 600 years. His decision sets the stage for a mid-March conclave to elect a new leader for a Roman Catholic Church in deep turmoil. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, File) (25 Dec 2008)
<<APPHOTO NYJC501 (12/25/08)>>