Pope Benedict XVI to resign on 28 February

Tuesday 12 February 2013 00.01
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Pope Benedict said mass in the Vatican yesterday
Pope Benedict said mass in the Vatican yesterday
Pope Benedict said he is stepping down for health reasons
Pope Benedict said he is stepping down for health reasons
Pope Benedict XVI prays during his visit at the Pontificio Seminario Romano Maggiore on 8 February
Pope Benedict XVI prays during his visit at the Pontificio Seminario Romano Maggiore on 8 February
The Pope waves at seminarians at the end of his visit at the Pontificio Seminario Romano Maggiore
The Pope waves at seminarians at the end of his visit at the Pontificio Seminario Romano Maggiore
Pope Benedict receives the Roman Curia for the annual Christmas greetings at the Clementina Hall on 22 December 2011 in Vatican City
Pope Benedict receives the Roman Curia for the annual Christmas greetings at the Clementina Hall on 22 December 2011 in Vatican City
Pope Benedict XVI waves from a balcony of St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican after being elected by the conclave of cardinals in 2005
Pope Benedict XVI waves from a balcony of St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican after being elected by the conclave of cardinals in 2005
Crowd gathered on St Peter's Square as Joseph Ratzinger, the new Pope Benedict XVI, appears at the window of St Peter's Basilica on 19 April 2005
Crowd gathered on St Peter's Square as Joseph Ratzinger, the new Pope Benedict XVI, appears at the window of St Peter's Basilica on 19 April 2005

The Vatican has confirmed that Pope Benedict XVI will step down at 7pm Irish time on 28th February for health reasons.

The 85-year-old pontiff said he is stepping down because he does not have the strength to continue in office due to his advanced age.

"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," he said according to a statement from the Vatican.

The Vatican said the papacy will be vacant until a successor is chosen.

A spokesman said the pope "took us by surprise" with his announcement.

An official said the Vatican expects the period between 28 February and the election of a successor to be "as brief as possible".

Pope Benedict is the first pontiff to resign in nearly 600 years.

He made the announcement in Latin at a canonisation ceremony in the Consistory Hall this morning.

The Vatican said the Pope's resignation is fully in compliance with church law.

President Michael D Higgins has written to the Pontiff wishing him well in his retirement.

He acknowledged the scholarship and personal commitment that Pope Benedict brought to his leadership of the Roman Catholic community.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the decision the Pope made was clearly taken following careful consideration, deep prayer and reflection.

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