Pope Benedict the XVI (Sixteenth) has announced his resigned. Pope Benedict shocked the Roman Catholic Church including his closest advisers this morning when he announced he will step down officially as of Thursday February 28th. In announcing his abdication, the 85-year-old pope wrote that his age and failing health has made him unable to fully execute the duties required of his ministry especially in the last recent months. Benedict was named pope in 2005, following the death of Pope John Paul II; his resignation marks the first time since 1415 being almost 600 years, that the leader of the Catholic Church has stepped down from power. The pope, is known for his conservative doctrine, which stepped up the Church’s opposition to gay marriage, underscored the Church’s resistance to a female priesthood and opposition to priest marriage. He is also opposed to abortion and euthanasia. Pope Benedict’s resignation comes after almost eight years in his post. According to international reports and Chief Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi a new leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics could be elected as soon as Palm Sunday, on March 24, and be ready to take over by Easter a week later.