Pope Benedict XVI will resign at the end of February, the Vatican Press Office tells Fox News.
The 85-year-old pontiff made the announcement Monday, saying he no longer had the strength to carry out his papal duties.
“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,” the pope said according to a statement released by the Vatican.
He said he is aware of the “seriousness” of his resignation, but that he did so in “full freedom.”
The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415 in a deal to end the Great Western Schism among competing papal claimants. The sudden announcement sets the stage for the Vatican to hold a conclave to elect a new pope by mid-March, since the traditional mourning time that would follow the death of a pope doesn’t have to be observed. There are several papal contenders in the wings, but no obvious front-runner, according to Vatican watchers.
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