Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday he will resign on February 28 because of his failing health, saying he no longer has the strength to carry out his duties.
The 85-year-old announced his decision during an address, in Latin, at the "Concistory for the canonization of the martyrs of Otranto", a small event held in the early morning.
The decision, which took even the Vatican hierarchy by surprise, makes him the the first pope to resign since the middle ages.
His statement was posted on the Vatican Radio website.
He said carrying out the duties of being pope — the leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics worldwide — requires "both strength of mind and body."
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