Archbishop Richard Smith has issued a short statement following news that Pope Benedict intends to resign effective February 28.

"This morning we received the surprising news that the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has announced his resignation due to his weakening health," said Archbishop Smith. "We are grateful to God for the leadership given to the Church by this extraordinary man. The clarity and beauty of his teachings will be a legacy to enrich the Church for generations.

"Having met with the Pope last November and seen firsthand his growing physical weakness, I sympathize with his decision. Clearly his love for the Church and his shepherd's heart have led him to take this step, which he believes in his conscience to be necessary for the good of the Church. We offer our prayers for him and assure him of our love and gratitude."

The Canadian Bishops also released a letter to the Holy Father, thanking him for his service to the Church and assuring him of the abiding prayers, love and support of the Church in Canada.

The Holy Father made the announcement to cardinals who were celebrating the naming of three new saints. Here is the text of his message:

"Dear Brothers,

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.