Pope Benedict XVI is to abdicate, effective the end of February, according to Vatican sources.
Pope Benedict will resign on February 28, his spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told CNN Monday.
Lombardi did not give a reason for the resignation.
Benedict, the 265th pope, is the sixth German to serve as pope and the first since the 11th century. He has led church after the third-longest papacy in church history and during a time in which the church is declining in his native Europe but expanding in Africa and Latin America.
Papal abdications are not unprecedented -- but the last one happened some six centuries ago. This will be a whole new experience for the Catholic Church, and will set off much speculation as to who will emerge from the upcoming conclave as the new pope.