A French cardinal says Pope Benedict's decision to resign is a "liberating act" for future popes.

 

A woman lights a candle at St. Hedwig Catholic cathedral prior to a special evening mass following the announced resignation of Pope Benedict XVI on February 11, 2013 in Berlin, Germany. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The pontiff told a meeting of cardinals today that he will be resigning at the end of this month, becoming the first pope to step down in 600 years. He said the duties of being pope require "strength of mind and body," and that he simply isn't strong enough anymore.

Benedict is 85. His brother says doctors recently advised the pope not to take any more trans-Atlantic trips.

A successor will be chosen next month.

The archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois says popes from now on will not feel compelled to stay on until their death. He says Benedict, in a sense, "broke a taboo" against resigning.

Another cardinal, Christoph Schoenborn  -- the archbishop of Vienna -- calls it a "historic moment" for the church. Schoenborn -- a protege of Benedict who is considered a papal contender himself -- says Catholics around the world are "holding their breath."

Another possible contender to succeed Benedict is Cardinal Angelo Scola (SKOH'-lah), the archbishop of Milan.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved)