Monday, February 11, 2013

Pope Benedict stepping down, cites poor health

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict shocked the world on Monday by saying he no longer had the mental and physical strength to cope with his ministry, in an announcement that left his aides "incredulous" and will make him the first pontiff to step down since the Middle Ages.

The German-born Pope, 85, hailed as a hero by conservative Roman Catholics and viewed with suspicion by liberals, told cardinals in Latin that his strength had deteriorated recently. He will step down on February 28 and the Vatican expects a new Pope to be chosen by the end of March.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the Pope had not decided to resign because of "difficulties in the papacy" and the move had been a surprise, indicating that even his inner circle was unaware that he was about to quit.