By: Kevin Karel (WRGA News)
After eight years of service to the papacy and the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI will step down today, becoming the first pontiff to resign in 600 years.
Citing health issues which include impaired vision and frailty, Benedict announced earlier this month he could no longer fulfill his duties. The German native gave his final public prayers Wednesday morning to an adoring audience outside St. Peter’s Basilica and now the focus shifts to his replacement. Deacon Stuart Neslin with St. Mary’s parish in Rome says Benedict’s successor has a strong chance to be someone he himself appointed;
"We've gotta remember although he essentially is saying that he will not be part of the process officially, you look at the Cardinals that will be voting for the next Holy Father, fully 80% of them were appointed by Pope Benedict so clearly there's going to be a significant influence."
The Conclave of Cardinals will meet at the Vatican in the coming days with the election of a new Pope possible by Easter, which falls this year on March 31st. Speculation suggests the new Pope is likely to come from a third-world nation in South America or Africa, instead of a traditional European country.
Pope Benedict will now be known as Pope Emeritus and will live out his days in a monastery.
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