By Stacey Cohan (CNN)- The Vatican announced today the Pope is resigning.
Pope Benedict XVI says his advanced age and deteriorating health in the past few months contributed to his decision to step aside at the end of the month.
This is a historic move. The last pope to resign was Gregory XII in 1415.
When Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI in April 2005 the College of Cardinals did not pick an unknown quantity. He was considered one of the Catholic church's finest minds.
He was the "professor" watching the back of his "star-like" predecessor John Paul II whom he served as a trusted advisor and friend.
Many expected the severe German Cardinal would bring his strict style to the papacy and in some ways he has, reaffirming the church's strong opposition to abortion, gay marriage and euthanasia.
In his first major ruling as pope he imposed restrictions on homosexuals becoming Priests, Benedict XVI also displayed a kinder perhaps gentler style than many had predicted. In the year following his election, during a trip to Germany, Pope Benedict made perhaps the most controversial remarks of his papacy.
Addressing a group of scholars he quoted a Byzantine Emperor asserting the Prophet Mohammed brought "things only evil and inhuman…"
The comments sparked outrage and protest in many Muslim countries. The Pope tried to defuse the anger by clarifying the quote did not express his personal views but stopped short of an outright apology.
His first trip to a predominately Muslim country… Turkey, provided him with an opportunity to mend fences. From the moment he touched down, his desire to defuse tensions was evident.
"May we come to know one another better, strengthening the bonds between us and our common wish to live in harmony, peace and mutual trust."
The crisis exposed the fragile relationship between Christians and Muslims in a post 9/11 world.
Another problem facing the church: a clergy sex abuse scandal.
In 2008, during a trip to the United States, Pope Benedict met with sex abuse victims.
He would later ask for public forgiveness.
"We do insistently beg forgiveness from God and the persons involved while promising to do everything possible to ensure such things never occur again."
While Pope Benedict XVI has faced many of the same issues as his predecessors, he also brought modern elements to the papacy, inking a recording deal, celebrating Mass in Cuba's Revolution Square, even establishing a twitter account.
Guiding the church in the twenty-first century.
He says, you know, I may not be up to it now. Perhaps I can best serve Jesus and his church and his people by stepping aside. So I have to admire him immensely.
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