MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — Declaring that he lacks the strength to do his job, Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday he will resign Feb. 28 — becoming the first pontiff to step down in 600 years.

University of St Thomas Catholic studies professor Don Briel isn’t totally surprised by the pope’s decision.

“Benedict has spoken in the past several years several times about the possibility of resignation, that given his advanced age it would be something he would have to consider seriously,” Briel said.

Briel notes that Benedict was the oldest person chosen for the papacy since the 18th century when he was elevated at the age of 78.

Briel says one possible successor could be a cardinal from Canada, but added it’s hard to predict anything, since this is the first time a pope has stepped aside in 600 years.

“Cardinal Marc Ouelett, relatively young and in his 60’s, has been perceived as a very strong figure,” Briel said.

Aside from Ouelett, bookmakers have been quick to offer odds on candidates to replace Benedict, with Ghana’s Cardinal Peter Turkson and Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria also among the early favorites.

Among Britain’s major bookmakers, William Hill made Turkson — one of the highest-ranking African cardinals at the Vatican — its 3/1 favorite Monday, followed by Ouellet at 7/2 and Arinze at 4/1. Ladbrokes also had Turkson as favorite, followed by Arinze and Ouellet.

Ireland’s Paddy Power also offered short odds on the three, as well as long odds on unlikely candidates — including U2 singer Bono at 1,000/1. It also offered 1,000/1 odds on Father Dougal Maguire, the simpleminded fictional priest from 1990s U.K. sitcom “Father Ted.”

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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