Pope Benedict will resign on February 28 "because of advanced age," his spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said today, CNN reports. It's the first time a pope has resigned in nearly 600 years. Benedict, 85, was elected pope in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II, the third-longest-serving leader of the Catholic Church. Benedict, the 265th pope and the sixth German to serve as pope, has led the Catholic Church during a time in which the church is declining in his native Europe but expanding in Africa and Latin America. His papacy has also been marked with a series of scandals and controversies, including hundreds of new allegations of sexual abuse by priests. After Benedict's resignation becomes effective on February 28, cardinals will meet to choose a new leader for the church.