Pope Benedict in shock resignation

Pope Benedict XVI, Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church, is stepping down at the end of this month due to age and infirmity. It is the first resignation of a sitting pope in 600 years. Not since an agreement to heal a schism that arose due to competing papal claimants, forcing Gregory XII out of office in 1415, has there been a papal resignation. Vatican watchers -- the Italian press, which usually has excellent inside info on the papacy - was blindsided by the announcement. Not even the pope's closest aides were privy to his decision. Benedict - the former Cardinal Ratzinger - was always seen as a caretaker pope. Elected in 2005 at the age of 78 following the death of his predecessor John Paul II, Ratzinger was considered  a placeholder for other candidates who were in their 50's at the time and considered too young to fill the office. In the last years of John Paul's pontificate, Ratzinger headed up the powerful and influential office of Prefect for the Doctrine...(Read Full Post)