LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Pope Benedict XVI, age 85, will resign at the end of February. He will be the first Pope to step down in nearly 600 years.
The Pope says his role requires strength of mind and body and he simply is not strong enough anymore. The Pope served a little more than seven years.
The Archbishop of Louisville, Joseph Kurtz who was appointed by Pope Benedict, was stunned by the news.
Many are praying for the pontiff’s health even though his exact medical condition was never revealed by Vatican officials.
Archbishop of Louisville, Joseph Kurtz, was surprised like many who learned of Pope Benedict's resignation on February 28 through social media.
"I got a phone call and the Twitters began to come all over the place. At first I thought, is that real? Is it true?” Archbishop Kurtz said.
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz first met the Pope on World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany. He last saw the Pope in October and says he never noticed signs of illness.
Kurtz believes the Pope dealt with the sexual abuse scandal the best he could.
"I look to our Holy Father as an example for seeking what is the true and just direction, to do so with humility," Kurtz said.
Kurtz remembers his legacy as a great unifier, soft-spoken with strong theological standards. The pontiff is the first to reach out to younger generations via Twitter.
In order to elect a new pope, 118 cardinals will gather in an age-old tradition at the Vatican and place ballots in a small furnace.
"Because they're in conclave there's no way to communicate other than this black smoke. So if there is not a Pope selected then this black smoke will come out. If a Pope is elected white smoke will come out and as well bells at St. Peter's will ring," Bellarmine University Assistant Professor of Theology, Greg Hillis said.
Hillis says it’s a process that could take days and likely a Cardinal will be chosen as the next pope. However, the only requirement is that the man is not married and is a man of God.
A new Pope could be chosen as early as March 15 but definitely before Easter, according to Hillis.