Pope Benedict XVI announces shock resignation

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  • Pope Benedict XVI to resign on February 28.
  • He is the first pontiff to resign in 600 years.

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2:06pm

A STATEMENT on the news that the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, will resign on 28 February 2013, by the president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols:

"Pope Benedict's announcement today has shocked and surprised everyone. Yet, on reflection, I am sure that many will recognise it to be a decision of great courage and characteristic clarity of mind and action.

"The Holy Father recognises the challenges facing the Church and that 'strength of mind and body are necessary' for his tasks of governing the Church and proclaiming the Gospel.

"I salute his courage and his decision.

"I ask people of faith to keep Pope Benedict in their prayers. We Catholics will do so, with great affection and the highest esteem for his ministry as our Holy Father remembering with joy his Visit to the United Kingdom in 2010. Pray, too, for the Church and all the steps that must take place in the next weeks. We entrust ourselves to the loving Providence of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit."

1:03pm

STATEMENT from Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the leader of the Anglican Communion: "It was with a heavy heart, but complete understanding, that we learned this morning of Pope Benedict's declaration of his decision to lay down the burden of ministry as Bishop of Rome, an office which he has held with great dignity, insight and courage."

12:53pm

12:49pm

THE following is the full statement from the Vatican on the Pope's 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 steer the boat 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.

12:48pm

ITALIAN Prime Minister Mario Monti said he is 'greatly shaken' by the news.

12:42pm

THE Vatican says it expects a new Pope to be elected before the end of March, ahead of Easter, the most important festival in the Christian calendar.

12:37pm

POPE Benedict XVI has stunned the Catholic world by unexpectedly announcing his resignation at the end of the month.

The 85-year-old former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has released a statement saying he is no longer suited to the role due to his 'advanced age.'

He became one of the oldest Popes in modern history when he took over the role in 2005 aged 78 following the death of John Paul II.

Resignations from the papacy are not unknown, but this is the first in the modern era, which has been marked by pontiffs dying while in office.

In a statement, he said: "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.

"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."

12:23pm

12:23pm

He has become the first pontiff to resign in 600 years.

11:59am

11:50am

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