Pope Benedict XVI on Monday announced he will resign on February 28, a Vatican spokesman told AFP, which will make him the first pope to do so in centuries.
"The pope announced that he will leave his ministry at 8:00 pm (1900 GMT) on February 28," said the spokesman, Federico Lombardi.
Update, 7:21 a.m. EST: A government spokesman in the Pope's home nation of Germany has expressed "respect" and "gratitude" for the Pope in response.
"The federal government has the greatest possible respect for the Holy Father, for his accomplishments, for his life-long work for the Catholic Church," said Steffen Seibert.
1134 GMT: The Pope has explained his decision to a meeting of cardinals, saying his strength has "deteriorated" in the last few months.
"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," he told the meeting.
"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 recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me."
This story will be updated.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]