VATICAN CITY— Pope Benedict XVI on Monday announced he will resign on February 28, a Vatican spokesman told AFP, which will make him the first pope to do so in centuries.
“The pope announced that he will leave his ministry at 8:00 pm (1900 GMT) on February 28,” said the spokesman, Federico Lombardi.
Pope Benedict XVI is to stand down as leader of the Catholic church, it was announced today.
The 85-year-old Pontiff said his strength was 'no longer adequate to continue in office due to his advanced age'.
He said: 'I have had to recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.'
He said he was making the decision in 'full freedom' but was 'fully aware of the gravity of this gesture'.
A Vatican spokesman said he will retire on February 28.
Further details of his resignation are not yet clear, but the decision is highly unusual as the vast majority of incumbents die in office.
A spokesman for the German government said that he was 'moved' by news of the Pope’s resignation.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI when he took office at the age of 78 in April 2005 after succeeding Pope John Paul II.
Ratzinger's stern leadership of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the modern successor to the Inquisition, delighted conservative Catholics but upset moderates and other Christians whose churches he described as deficient.
Born in Bavaria on April 16, 1927, Ratzinger was a leading theology professor and then archbishop of Munich before taking over the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1981.
In that office, Ratzinger disciplined Latin American 'liberation theology' theologians, denounced homosexuality and gay marriage and pressured Asian priests who saw non-Christian religions as part of God's plan for humanity.
In a document in 2000, he branded other Christian churches as deficient - shocking Anglicans, Lutherans and other Protestants in ecumenical dialogue with Rome for years.
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