Posted on February 11, 2013by 

Published: 11 February, 2013, 15:02

Pope Benedict XVI (Reuters / Tony Gentile)

Pope Benedict XVI (Reuters / Tony Gentile)

Pope Benedict XVI is to resign for reasons relating to his health, according to a Vatican spokesperson. He’s the first head of the Catholic Church to quit the highest post since the Middle Ages.

The 85-year-old is due to step down on February 28. The Pope said he is “fully aware of the gravity of this gesture” but that he lacks the strength to govern Church due to age, according to Vatican’s spokesperson Federico Lombardi.

In a statement released by the Catholic Church, Benedict VXI said that “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.”

A reproduction picture shows Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in front of Petersdome in Rome, 1996 (Reuters / KNA-Bild) 

A reproduction picture shows Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in front of Petersdome in Rome, 1996 (Reuters / KNA-Bild)

A Vatican official says they expect the period between Benedict’s resignation and the election of a successor to be “as brief as possible,” according to Reuters news agency. However, his resignation means that the Papacy will be vacant until a successor is chosen. A Vatican spokesman said that the Pope “took us by surprise”, suggesting that even his closest aides had not previously been informed of the decision. One said that he was left “incredulous” by the Pope’s news.

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