A stunning announcement from the Vatican this morning. While conducting the Concistory for the canonization of the martyrs of Otranto, a relatively minor event on the Papal calendar, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he is going to be stepping down. Benedict, born Joseph Ratzinger, turned 85 years old this year and was the 265th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, the highest leader of that organization and one of the most powerful religious figures on earth.
According to the Vatican, Benedict will be stepping down on February 28, at which point the cardinals will come together to name a replacement within the walls of the Holy See. While nothing official has been said about a medical condition, Benedict’s Latin address this morning mentioned failing health and weakness. The last Papal abdication was 1294, when Pope Celestine V stepped down (and thereby made it legal for popes to step down from their position).
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