By Carl Kanefsky 2:45pm, February 11, 2013It's not what the cardinals who met with Pope Benedict this morning were expecting to hear.
The pontiff told them that he will be resigning at the end of this month, becoming the first pope to step down in 600 years. He said the duties of being pope require "strength of mind and body," and that he simply isn't strong enough anymore.
Benedict is 85. His brother says doctors recently advised the pope not to take any more trans-Atlantic trips.
The announcement sets the stage for a conclave in March to elect a new leader for world's 1 billion Catholics.
The Bishop of the Diocese of Wilmington was among those surprised by today's news.
The Most Reverend Francis Malooly told WDEL's Allan Loudell during "Delaware's News at Noon" on WDEL that he noticed the pontiff slowing down in the recent past.
"My last visit with him was January a year ago and he was very clear and maybe a little slower in step than when I had seen him four years earlier, but I guess he realizes that he just needs more to do this," Malooly says.
Benedict is the first Pope to step down in almost 600 years.
"What Pope Benedict is doing is not so much setting a precedent that could be dangerous, but setting a precedent that helps the church to function in even a better way," Malooly says.
Allan has written a blog about Benedict's departure on WDEL.com.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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