The Vatican announced on Monday that Pope Benedict XVI will resign his post on February 28.

Benedict, the spiritual leader of more than 1 billion Catholics, said he lacks the strength to fulfill his duties.

In the past, the 85-year-old Benedict has said he would resign if he became too old or weak to do his job. He is the first pope to resign in almost 500 years.

During a meeting of Vatican cardinals, Benedict called his choice “a decision of great importance for the life of the church.” The move allows the Vatican to elect a new pope before Easter, and gives Benedict a say in who will succeed him.

A vociferous opponent of gay marriage, Benedict has hand-picked the bulk of the College of Cardinals, which will elect the next pope.

New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who led the opposition to marriage equality in New York, said he admired the pope's “humility.”

“I love him so much. As a brother bishop, as the bishop of Rome who appointed me to the Archdioceses of New York to you all, to the Holy Father who made me a cardinal,” Dolan told reporters. “And I just always admired him – as a scholar, as a priest, as a holy man.”

“And now my admiration for him is even higher because of his humility,” he added.