A big shocker for fellow Roman Catholics this morning, Pope Benedict has announced that he will step down on February 28th.
The 85-year-old pope, the Successor of Saint Peter, says he has become to frail to fulfill the ministry entrusted to him.
Benedict has suffered a number of heath scares including a stroke in 1991. He succeeded John Paul II in April 2005.
Pope Benedict's selection as Pope was a controversial. He is a Conservative taking firm stances on conception, abortion and euthanasia. As a youth, he served, as was mandatory, in the Hitler Youth.
It has been centuries since a Pope abdicated the role.
It is expected that his successor will be selected by the College of Cardinals by Easter Sunday. All of the elector-Cardinals were appointed by John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Cardinals lose their vote after age 80. Half of all cardinal-electors (67 out of 125) are Europeans.
There is a strong potential that the next pope could be a Canadian. Cardinal Marc Ouellet is a strong contender. The 67 year-old Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, is formerly Archbishop of Quebec. He speaks English, French, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish and German fluently.
The front runner to replace Benedict is Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson of Ghana. The 63 year old is President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
Other contenders include: Cardinal Angelo Scola, The 70 year-old Arch-Bishop of Milan; 77 year-old Cardinal Tarsicio Bertone who is the Vatican’s Secretary of State; and American Cardinal Timothy Dolan, 62. He is the Archbishop of New York.
The season of Lent begins this Wednesday.