Earlier today came the surprising announcement that Pope Benedict XVI—the supreme pontiff of the Catholic Church—would step down from the papacy, becoming the first man to relinquish the role in nearly six hundred years.
The 85-year-old pope, who assumed his post in 2005 after the death of John Paul II, declared that his "strength of mind and body... 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," the Benedict wrote.
Benedict's sudden announcement sent shockwaves around the globe, particularly among an estimated 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide.
The Archdiocese of Washington—which includes Prince George's County—is home to tens of thousands of Catholics spread across 140 parishes, as well as the largest Catholic church in the United States.
What's your reaction to Pope Benedict's announcement? Are you troubled by his resgination, or does it seem like a smart decision in light of his apparent health? And who—or what—are you hoping for out of the coming Papal conclave? Share your thoughts in the comments.