Pope Benedict XVI is to resign, the Vatican has announced today (11 February).
The 85-year-old Roman Catholic leader who has called gay people a ‘defection of human nature’ and a threat to world peace will leave his post on 28 February.
The Vatican has said the post of Pope will be left temporarily vacant.
‘After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry,’ he said.
Previously called Joseph Ratzinger, the German anti-gay faith leader is resigning after almost eight years.
Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said: ‘The pope announced that he will leave his ministry at 8pm (Central European Time) on 28 February.’
In his message for World Day of Peace 2013, he said same-sex marriage is unnatural and poses a threat to ‘justice and peace’.
He said: ‘There is also a need to acknowledge and promote the natural structure of marriage as the union of a man and a woman in the face of attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different types of union.
‘Such attempts actually harm and help to destabilize marriage, obscuring its specific nature and its indispensable role in society.’
On another occassion, Benedict accused gay and trans people of ‘manipulating their God-given gender to suit their sexual choice’ and ‘destroying the very essence of the human creature’ in the process.
Experts are already saying that his resignation comes against a backdrop of controversy over his stance on homosexuality and, separately, the pedophile priest scandals that have rocked the church.
From 2001 to 2005, in his previous job as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he was responsible for all investigations and policies on sexual abuse.
The last Roman Catholic leader to resign was Gregory XII (1406-1415).