LA CROSSE, Wis. -

Pope Benedict XVI, 85 says he will resign on February 28 due to his "advanced age."

It’s the first time a pope has resigned in nearly 600 years.

La Crosse Bishop William P. Callahan released the following statement on Pope Benedict’s resignation:

"Along with my brothers and sisters around the world, I was surprised to hear today of the resignation of our beloved Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. This, of course, is important news and certainly extraordinary in our times.

Pope Benedict has led the Church in his unflinching leadership in spiritual, intellectual, and world issues. As a teacher and accomplished author he leaves a rich legacy that will be tapped for generations to come.

His resignation, during this Year of Faith, and at the beginning of the season of Lent inspires Catholics around the world with a deep dependency on our reliance on the Lord Jesus as the Light who shines in darkness and leads all people to eternal glory.

Successors to the Ministry of Peter will, thanks largely to the vision of Popes John Paul and Benedict, be considered from the world wide Catholic community. This, as Pope Benedict has shown, truly magnifies the dynamic of social media and worldwide connectivity. The Church is truly a global force announcing the Good News of Jesus Christ. The Pope—and his successor—will continue to unite the world and strengthen that message among us."