His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has shocked the world by resigning from the papacy. This is the first time in 600 years a pope has resigned.
The pontiff and Head of State of the Holy See will step down on 28th February with the Vatican saying it expects to elect a new Pope before Easter.
The Pope is 85 years of age and it is his frailty which will see him leave his ministry. He told a meeting of cardinals at the Vatican this morning of his decision, saying in Latin:
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.
I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiriual nature, must be carried out not only by words and deeds but no less with prayer and suffering.