Transcript for Pope Benedict to Resign, Cites Health Concerns
A centuries old tradition has been shattered by a surprise. Pope benedict, chosen to be pope for life,ay announced he will resign, citing his failing strength and health. And the toll of his seven years, nine months and 24 days as pope etched on his face. There he was, as we saw him on day one. And now, much thinner, frailer. This is unchartered territory for 1 billion catholics around the world. No pope has resigned in 598 years. And it's happening just 48 hours before the holy season of lent begins. Abc's jeffrey kofman is in rome with what we think happened. Jeffrey? Reporter: Good evening, diane. It's as if an earthquake has hit the vatican. The lights are still on, but people here rocked by the surprise resignation of benedict xvi. It began as a routine vatican ceremony, but the pope's announcement in latin was anything but routine. "I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the papal ministry." With that, for the first time in 600 years a pope is resigning. Benedict xvi was already old, 78, when he became pope. That was 2005. Here he is almost eight years later clearly frail and feeble. His older brother, father g egeeo rg ratzinger said today benedict is having trouble walking and had been advised by his doctors to stop traveling overseas. This came as a huge surprise to me and everyone in rome and everyone in the vatican. Reporter: As a cardinal, joseph ratzinger was known as john paul ii's enforcer of religious doctrine. He did not like answering questions. Here's brian ross asking him about a sexual abuse case in 2002. Come to me when the moment is given. But not yet. Reporter: It is almost eight years as pope, he would sometimes play the piano. He always wore his red shoes. But his passion was preaching the gospel. He never enjoyed being an administrator and he paid a price for that. His papacy will be remembered for its scandals. Those endless sexual abuse coverups that cost more than $3 billion to settle. During a financial scandal, tried and failed to clean up corruption. And the vatileaks scandal. A vatican back-stabbing in intrigue. He may have been the first pope to tweet, but as the leader, he tried to hold back the forces, refusing to expand the role of women. Now, though, he is accepting the reality of the modern world. And the catholic church enters new territory. Can the church cope with having an ex-pope alive while a new pope tripes to create his own legacy? This is the tremendous question that lies before us. There is no job description for a retired pope. Reporter: So, benedict remains pope until the end of the month. The cardinals have to assemble here for a conclave to elect his successor. That takes us to mid-march. That means a billion catholics around the world should have a new pope by easter.
This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.