For the first time in nearly 600 years, the head of the Catholic Church is resigning. Pope Benedict XVI announced the decision in Latin in Rome early Monday morning.

The Pope said he was too infirm to carry on the duties of the papacy.

He will step down on Feb. 28, almost exactly 8 years after taking over the papacy from John Paul II, who died in 2005.

A conclave will elect a new pope before the end of March.

The last pope to resign was Gregory XII in 1415.