Pope Benedict XVI, the Vatican Chief, has announced his resignation. The Pope announced his decision at a meeting of Vatican cardinals.
He is the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years. The decision clears the decks to elect a new pope before March-end. Before him, the last Pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415 in an effort to end the Great Western Split among competing claimants.
There are several contenders, but there is no obvious front-runner as was the case when Benedict was elected pontiff in 2005 after the demise of Pope John Paul II.