The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI was allegedly over blackmail claims, according to reports. Gay priests had been working at the Vatican for decades, and mounting pressure reportedly forced the Pope to leave.
The shocking report, published by Italian paper La Repubblica, has yet to be confirmed or denied by a Vatican spokesman. The daily publication claimed that the Pope decided to resign last December when he received word about a file that had been uncovered during the "Vatileaks" scandal.
"Neither the cardinals' commission nor I will make comments to confirm or deny the things that are said about this matter. Let each one assume his or her own responsibilities. We shall not be following up on the observations that are made about this," Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, read in a statement.
The highly publicized scandal involved one of the pope's former butlers who had illegally obtained a copy of the secret correspondences. Later, he was charged with theft of the papal papers.
The official announcement from the Vatican revealed that the 85-year-old pontiff felt he was no longer able to carry out his duties as head of the Catholic Church, due to his deteriorating health.
"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," a Pope Benedict XVI statement explained.
The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII, who left his post in 1415 as part of a deal that went to end the Great Western Schism concerning competing papal prospects.
Pope Benedict's sudden departure means that the Vatican will hold a conclave to elect a new pope. It has been rumored that officials hope to elect a new pope before the start of the holy season on March 14; however, the duration of the conclave is not set as Catholic leaders will continue to meet until a successor is elected.
Born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, Pope Benedict became the 265th pope after being elected on April 19, 2005, at the age of 78 following the death of Pope John Paul II. Benedict, who was ordained into ministry in 1951, is the ninth German pope, and was a prominent figure at the Vatican for decades before he took up the position as pontiff.