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Pope Benedict XVI to Step Down at Month's End

Last pontiff resignation happened nearly 600 years ago.

Pope Benedict XVI announced early Monday that he will resign Feb. 28 due to concerns over failing health, the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland said.

The 85-year-old pontiff said in a statement, "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."

Pope Benedict, who was elected in April 2005, will be the first pope to resign in almost 600 years, according to Catholic News Service.

The pope has increasingly had trouble walking in the past year, often using a cane and always being assisted getting up and down steps, CNS reported. However, the Vatican has never released medical information that would make it appear the pope suffers from anything other than joint pain connected to his age.

The move sets the stage for the Vatican to hold a conclave to elect a new pope by mid-March, since the traditional mourning time that would follow the death of a pope doesn't have to be observed, the Huffington Post reported.

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