Pope Benedict XVI stunned the world by announcing on Monday that he would resign – the first pope to do so since the middle ages.
The move, announced without warning, will take place on 28 February and leave the papacy vacant until a successor is chosen.
A Vatican spokesman said Benedict’s aides were “incredulous” when he told them he would step down because he was too weak to fulfil his duties. He summoned a meeting of cardinals to tell them of “a decision of great importance for the life of the church”.
One of those called to hear the announcement, the Mexican prelate Monsignor Oscar Sanchez, said none of the cardinals had expected it. “The pope took a sheet of paper and read from it. He just said that he was resigning and that he would be finishing on February 28,” he said.
to stun: to surprise
to resign: to leave your post, your office or your job
to do so: to do such a thing
a successor: a replacement
incredulous: adj. not believing
to step down: to leave one’s post or office
to summon: to call (a meeting)