I was stunned to read this news. Whilst there has been a precedent for this, notably Celestine V in 1294, every Pope since the 15th Century has died in office. But then we have seen in recent times the decline of Pope Paul VI, the seeming lack of care and observation with regards to the health of Pope John Paul I and the very visible decline of Pope John Paul II, to the point where, in many other walks of life, a resignation wouldn't just be expected, but demanded!
Pope Benedict likely wants to avoid that, having seen Pope John Paul's decline at close quarters, and feels, in fact he has said, that the challenges presented to the Christian faith at the moment need to be met by a Pope with more energy! Expect the next Papal Conclave therefore to elect a much younger Pope. In fact it could well be one of the following Cardinals:
Experience: Former Spiritual Director, helped many refugees during the Croatian War of Independence, putting his own life at risk, once being imprisoned by the Serbian Millitary for twelve hours
Nationality: Czech born Austrian
Experience: Studied under the current Pope when he was a University Professor, is a moderate, has questioned Priestly celibacy and attacked elements of the Vatican over the child sex abuse scandals, wants to see an end to theological differences with the Eastern Orthodox Church
Experience: Former Archbishop of Cape Coast, highly energetic individual, wants to see major international financial reforms in light of the banking crisis five years ago. Also in favour of condoms being used in certain circumstances
Antonio Lloveria: Prefect for the Congregation of Divine Worship
Experience: Former Archbishop of Toledo and Primate of Spain. He is mentioned here as he has a reputation for being a more spritghtly version of the current Pope. Nickname is "Little Ratzinger"
Fransisco Robles Ortega: Archbishop of Guadalajara
Experience: Has warned political parties and organisations in Mexico to be on the alert for potential infiltration by drug dealers
Experience: Keen on family and sacramental issues, as well as issues to do with poverty. Has a reputation for being a very charismatic figure
I would not be surprised if none of these men got to be elected Pope, there is always the expect the unexpected about these things, but these are the Cardinals to watch