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Pope Benedict XVI to resign

on February 11, 2013

Benedict, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was elected on April 19, 2005. His decision to step down Feb. 28 means that for the first time in almost six centuries, there will be a living former pope looking on as his successor leads the Catholic church.

A profoundly conservative figure whose papacy was overshadowed by clerical abuse scandals, Benedict, 85, was elected by fellow cardinals in 2005 after the death of his predecessor, John Paul II.

After examining his conscience “before God,” he said in a statement on Monday that reverberated around the world on the Internet and social media sites, “I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise” of his position as head of the world’s one billion Roman Catholics.

During a tumultuous eight-year tenure, Benedict guided the church through sexual abuse and financial scandals while seeking to reinforce Conservative doctrine among the global ranks of more than 1 billion faithful.

Quiet and soft-spoken, especially in comparison to his gregarious predecessor Pope John Paul II, Benedict nevertheless maintained a vigorous travel and speaking schedule, visiting Lebanon as recently as September and, in December, launching the first ever papal Twitter account.

The conclave of cardinals that will choose the next pope is expected to convene in mid-March. Analysts immediately began predicting a turbulent debate between reformers and conservatives.

In keeping with his reputation as a traditionalist, Pope Benedict made his extraordinary announcement in Latin, to a private gathering of cardinals inside Vatican City. The news was then transmitted via official Vatican media, with Benedict citing his age and failing health as the key factors in his decision.

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