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.
Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday that he will resign on Feb. 28. For more on what his resignation means for the future of the Vatican leadership, Steve Inskeep talks with Mathew Schmalz, a professor of religious studies at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.