Pope Benedict to resign at the end of the month, Vatican says

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ROME. February 11. KAZINFORM The spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Catholics, Pope Benedict XVI, surprised the world Monday by saying will resign at the end of the month "because of advanced age."

It's the first time a pope has resigned in nearly 600 years.

"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 recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me," the pope said, according to the Vatican.

After Benedict's resignation becomes effective on February 28, cardinals will meet to choose a new leader for the church.

"Before Easter, we will have the new pope," the Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said at a news conference.

The decision was not impulsive, he said.

"It's not a decision he has just improvised," Lombardi said. "It's a decision he has pondered over."

After his resignation, Benedict, 85, will probably retire to a monastery and devote himself to a life of reflection and prayer, he said.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, said the decision "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," he said.

Benedict -- born Joseph Ratzinger -- will not be involved in choosing a new pope or in guiding the church after his resignation, Lombardi said.

Benedict was elected pope in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II, the third-longest-serving leader of the Catholic Church.

He has served during a time in which the church is declining in his native Europe but expanding in Africa and Latin America.

His papacy also has been marked with a series of scandals and controversies, including hundreds of new allegations of sexual abuse by priests.

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Source: CNN

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