Benedict announced in February 2013 that, due to his advanced age, he would step down. At the age of 85 years and 318 days on the effective date of his retirement, he was the fourth-oldest person to hold the office of pope.
He announced his intention to resign in Latin at the Apostolic Palace in the Sala del Concistoro, at an early morning gathering on 11 February 2013, which was the World Day of the Sick, a Vatican holy day. The gathering was to announce the date of the canonisation of 800 Catholic martyrs, Antonio Primaldo and companions, as well as the Latin American nuns Laura Montoya Upegui and Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala. At the ceremony, known as the "Consistory for the canonization of the martyrs of Otranto", he told those present he had made "a decision of great importance for the life of the church". In a statement, Benedict cited his deteriorating strength due to old age and the physical and mental demands of the papacy. He also declared that he would continue to serve the church "through a life dedicated to prayer".
Two days after the announcement, Benedict presided over his final public Mass, Ash Wednesday services that ended with congregants bursting into a "deafening standing ovation that lasted for minutes" while the pontiff departed St. Peter's Basilica. On 17 February 2013, Pope Benedict, speaking in Spanish, requested prayers from the crowd in front of St. Peter's Square for himself and the new pope.