Pope Benedict XVI resigns from religious role

Pope Benedict XVI, 85, has announced the decision to step down from office at the end of February.

It is the first pontiff to announce this decision since Celestine V in 1294, whose pontificate lasted only five months.

Benedict XVI, former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, became pope in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II.

In 2010, the pope said he would not hesitate to become the first pontiff to resign voluntarily in more than 700 years if he felt no longer able “physically, psychologically and spiritually” to run the Catholic 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,” he said today.

The Vatican said it expects the period between the Pope’s resignation and the election of his successor to be as brief as possible, but there has been no confirmation on when cardinals will meet to choose a new pontiff.

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