Pope Benedict XVI to retire; will a Canadian replace him?

Pope Benedict to stand downPope Benedict XVI will step down as head of the Catholic Church on February 28. Travis Brecher reports.

Pope Benedict XVI suddenly announced his plans for retirement on Monday, saying he was getting too old for the job of God's ear.

The shocking revelation will turn the world's attention to the College of Cardinals, that man-centric enclave of Catholic elite tasked with deciding who will become the next Pope. And, spoiler alert, a Canadian is considered a good bet to get the nod.

An excerpt from Benedict's letter of resignation, posted on the Vatican Radio's website:

After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.

The announcement was shocking not only because some may not have realized popes had the ability to quit, but also because there has not been a papal resignation in 600 years.

[ Full Coverage: Pope Benedict XVI Announces Resignation ]

The last to resign was Pope Gregory XII in 1415. He stepped down to end the "Western Schism," a decades-long disagreement that resulted in two men claiming to be the head of the Catholic Church.

Here are some key moments of history that have occurred since the last papal resignation:

I’m just saying, maybe someone call Dan Brown.

The Vatican released a statement saying that Benedict's announcement came as a surprise, but that it was not a result of any scandal.

[ More Brew: They love us: Chicago newspaper touts coolness of Canada ]

Those scandals are summarized well here, by Reuters. They include allegations of child abuse in the church, Vatican corruption — based on information leaked by his personal butler — and the continuation of a strained relationship with Islam.

The 85-year-old German-born Pope will officially step down on Feb. 28, and a replacement will chosen by a conclave by the end of March. Among his possible successors are Cardinal Angelo Scola, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, and Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet.

Ouellet, previously the archbishop of Quebec and currently the head of the Vatican’s office for bishops, is currently considered the best bet to replace Benedict.

Online betting site Paddy Power had Ouellet at 5/2 odds to become the next Pope early Monday morning. By the afternoon, Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana had passed him to become the potential successor considered next more likely to get the promotion.

Yeah, you read that right. You can gamble on who will become the next Pope.