Citing advancing age and diminished energy, Pope Benedict XVI will reportedly become the first pope in 600 years to voluntarily resign from the post.
The 85-year-old pontiff announced that he would step down at the end of the month after less than eight years as top dog in the Vatican.
Reuters quoted the Pope as saying he was “fully aware of the gravity” of his resignation.
The former Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger drew some criticism in the Jewish community for moving Pope Pius XII–known by some as the Holocaust Pope–closer to sainthood despite Pius’ widely perceived inaction during World War II and the Holocaust. In 2009, Benedict also controversially lifted the excommunication of four bishops, one of whom is a Holocaust denier.
Despite this, Israel’s Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger had warm words and strong praise for Benedict XVI.
“During his period (as pope) there were the best relations ever between the church and the chief rabbinate and we hope that this trend will continue,” a spokesman quoted Metzger as saying after the pope announced he would resign. “I think he deserves a lot of credit for advancing inter-religious links the world over between Judaism, Christianity and Islam.”