Benedict meets with Fidel Castro, March of 2012 - Reuters
Reuters: The following is the text of the resignation of Pope Benedict
I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both 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. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.
"Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer."
The announcement is dubbed a “shock” by the BBC, as it was “entirely unexpected” Generally, it is rare that a Pope resign, according to CBBC Newsround, the last Pope to resign was in the 1400’s, was Gregory XII, on July 4, 1415; prior to that Celestine V, abdicated in 1294. (popes and papacy).
Pope Benedict cites his age, and the global nature of the papacy in today’s world, as reasoning for his resignation. Benedict was relentless in his anti-abortion – pro-life message (Catholic News Service). In a meeting with then, Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi a Pro-Choice, Pro-Abortion, Democrat, the pope instructed Ms. Pelosi on the duty to protect all human life (politicalvelcraft.org), a rarity for a Pope in recent years to speak out privately or publicly to leaders of the U.S. on the subject.
Most recently, the Pope had traveled to the Island of Cuba (and other nations), calling for an end to the U.S. embargo on that island as well as promoting Democracy in the dictator-state.
He was outspoken, modern, (his twitter account), and steadfast in his ministry. It remains to be seen if the next Pope chosen by the College of Cardinal will be another leader in the vein of Benedict. One might think, however that Benedict would have some input into the choice.