The first German pope in a thousand years is a cold, distant intellectual who never served as a parish priest. Cardinal Ratzinger, the Vatican Enforcer, became Pope Benedict XVI. As successor to John Paul II, Benedict was never as beloved by the faithful but still attracted crowds matching those of his media-savvy predecessor.
And this is the day of the week when we normally talk to our MORNING EDITION contributor Cokie Roberts about politics. This morning, though, politics and the runup to the president's State of the Union Address tomorrow have been overshadowed by the news out of Rome.
So we've asked Cokie, a longtime Vatican watcher, to weigh in on the announcement that Pope Benedict is resigning at the end of this month.
It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And I'm Renee Montagne.
Within the last hour, we have heard that Pope Benedict is resigning at the end of this month. A Vatican spokesman said the pope's announcement, quote, "took us by surprise," suggesting that even the pontiff's closest aides did not know what he was about to do. The last pope to resign was Gregory XII, in 1415.