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Pope Benedict XVI to Resign

Pope Benedict XVI
Vittorio Zunino Celotto, Getty Images

The Vatican announced Monday that Pope Benedict XVI is resigning on February 28.

Pope Benedict is the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years.

The 85-year-old pope announced his decision in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals this morning. Benedict says he’s stepping down because of his advanced age and diminishing strength.

The pope’s resignation sets the stage for a conclave to elect a new pope before the end of 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 as was the case when Benedict was elected pontiff in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II.

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