POPE Benedict XVI today shocked the world, with the announcement that he would be stepping down from religion's most powerful position, because he no longer had the mental and physical strength.
The German-born Pope, 85, will step down on February 28 and the Vatican expects a new Pope to be chosen by the end of March.
The official announcement has left the Roman Catholic Church in shock, said the Vatican's representative to Trinidad and Tobago, Archbishop Nicolas Girasol.
He told the Express "This of course is official so I would like first of all to confirm the resignation of the Holy Father which will take place on the 28 February at 8 p.m. time of Rome, which means here would be 3 p.m.
"We all were surprised by receiving this news officially from Rome today but as the Holy Father clearly stated in his letter of resignation, he probably became very weak because of his failing health he felt that he could not carry on the ministry of Supreme pontiff," Girasoli said.
He added that Benedict's resignation came as a shock because it is very unusual for a Pope to resign and in the history of the church it is only the second time that this has occurred.
"The precedent is a few centuries ago. We have to go back to the end of the 14 century to find a Pope who resigned, this is also why we were surprised.
"As of the 28 February he will retire to private life. We don't know where he will go if he will stay in Rome or if he will go to a monastery. It has not been officially communicated," he added.
According to an Associated Press report Pope Benedict XVI, who was elected pontiff in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II, will become the first pontiff in 600 years to resign.
And though no specific medical condition is said to have prompted Benedict's decision, AP quoted him as having indicated back in 2010 that if he were simply too old or sick to continue on, that he would resign.
He is quoted as saying "If a pope clearly realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right, and under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign."
A conclave will have to be held in March to elect a new leader for world's 1 billion Catholics and will also according to the AP report, and will allow Benedict to hold great sway over the choice of his successor.