In a sudden announcement that caught Catholics around the world off guard, Pope Benedict XVI said he will resign at the end of February, becoming the first pontiff to step down in nearly 600 years.

The 85-year-old pontiff made the announcement Monday, saying he no longer had the strength to carry out his papal duties.

“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,” the pope said according to a statement released by the Vatican.

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