VATICAN CITY—Citing his advancing age and deteriorating health, Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation from the papacy Monday, saying he no longer possessed the strength and energy required to lead the Catholic Church backward.

According to the 85-year-old pontiff, after considerable prayer and reflection on his physical stamina and mental acuity, he concluded that his declining faculties left him unable to helm the Church’s ambitious regressive agenda and guide the faith’s one billion global followers on their steady march away from modernity and cultural advancement.

“It is with sadness, but steadfast conviction, that I announce I am no longer capable of impeding social progress with the energy and endurance that is required of the highest ministry in the Roman Catholic Church,” Benedict reportedly said in Latin to the Vatican’s highest cardinals. “While I’m proud of the strides the Church has made over the past eight years, from thwarting AIDS-prevention efforts in Africa to failing to punish or even admit to decades of sexual abuse of children at the hands of clergy, it has become evident to me that, in this rapidly evolving world, I now lack the capacity to continue guiding this faith back centuries.”

“Thus, I must step down from the papacy,” he added. “But let me assure every member of the Church that the Vatican’s commitment to narrow-mindedness and social obstruction will long live on after my departure.”

Word of Benedict’s resignation—the first for a sitting pope in nearly 600 years—reportedly stunned the world’s Catholic faithful, many of whom believed the German-born pontiff still had years of stymieing female advancement in Church roles, opposing stem cell research, and inflaming tensions with Jews, Muslims, and Anglicans left in him.

Other members of the faith, however, said they recognized the Holy Father had, as of late, grown slower and more feeble in his ability to block measures regarding scientific discovery and same-sex rights. Many believers expressed appreciation that Benedict recognized his limitations at obstructing society’s advancement, and admitted feeling a sense of excitement that a new pontiff could reinvigorate the faith’s obsolete ideology and guide the Church toward bold social norms unseen since the Middle Ages.

“I’ll always appreciate what Benedict XVI did for limiting my ability to receive basic health care services,” said devout Catholic Ana Maria Fernández of Buenos Aires. “He was a visionary leader who was undaunted by modern realities and social trends, always vowing to triumph over modern ideals of fairness, equality, and in many cases, even basic human compassion to achieve a darker, far more regressive world for all of us.”

“I doubt we’ll ever find another leader so committed to reversing society’s natural progression of post-Enlightenment values,” Fernández added. “He will truly be missed.”

Responding to the widespread outpouring of shock and sadness surrounding his resignation, Benedict issued a brief statement Monday afternoon consoling his followers, assuring them that “the Church’s most ignorant and regressive days still lie ahead of us.”