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Pope Benedict XVI to resign over poor health

  • Pope Benedict XVI is to step down at the end of this month after nearly eight years as the head of the Catholic Church.

    Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope in 2005 after John Paul II's death, said on Monday he was too old to continue at the age of 85.

    His decision, the first papal resignation in nearly 600 years, surprised governments, Vatican-watchers along with his closest aides.

    The Vatican expects a new Pope to be elected before Easter.

    Under the Canon Law, the Catholic Church's governing code, the only conditions for such a resignation to be valid are that it be made freely and be published.

    The last Pope to step aside was Pope Gregory XII, who resigned in 1415 amid a rift within the Church.

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