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Pope Benedict XVI to resign at end of the month

Announcement marks first papal resignation since 1415

Published: Monday, Feb. 11, 2013 4:08 p.m. CST • Updated: Monday, Feb. 11, 2013 4:31 p.m. CST

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For the first time in nearly 600 years, the current pope – Pope Benedict the XVI – announced Monday that he will be stepping down from his helm as head of the Roman Catholic Church on Feb. 28. Reports indicate that even his staff did not know about his decision.

The last pope to have resigned voluntarily was Pope Gregory XII in 1415.

Pope Benedict the XVI stated the following in regards to his resignation:

"Dear brothers,

I have convoked you to this consistory, not only for the three canonisations, 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 bark 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 recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfil 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."

Pope Benedict the XVI was the first German pope to be elected in nearly 1,000 years. Despite following in the rather large figurative footsteps of Pope John Paul II, Benedict gained recognizition for his foray into social media as the first pope to utilize Twitter as a part of his ministry.