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Failing health forces Pope Benedict to quit

Last updated on: February 11, 2013 17:30 IST

Failing health forces Pope Benedict to quit

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In a startling development, the Vatican has announced that Pope Bendict will resign on February 28.

"The pope announced that he will leave his ministry at 8:00 pm (1900 GMT) on February 28," said Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi.

The decision, which could have a possible effect on the future of the 1.2 billion-member Roman Catholic Church, is reportedly the outcome of the 85-year-old Pontiff's flailing health.

News agency Reuters quoted the Pope as saying in statement that his strength was no longer adequate to continue in office.

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Image: Pope Benedict XVI leaves at the end of a mass at the St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican
Photographs: Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters

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Speculations in this regard had emerged last year in November when Pope Benedict appointed six non-European prelates Roman Catholic cardinals to the Vatican's College of Cardinals.

The college is the elite body that advises the pontiff and elects his successor upon his death.

The surprise announcement sparked concern among Vatican watchers that the elderly pontiff's health may be worse than thought.

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Image: Pope Benedict XVI leaves at the end of a meeting with seminarians at the Romano Maggiore seminary in Rome
Photographs: Tony Gentile/Reuters

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Failing health forces Pope Benedict to quit

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With 62 cardinals electors, Europeans still have a slight majority in the 120-member group, but their numbers have shrunk to be about even with the rest of the world.

There are now 58 non-European electors and of them, 14 are from North America, 21 are from Latin America, Africa and Asia have 11 each and Australia has one. Two of the new cardinals, Boutros Rai, 72, of Lebanon, and Onaiyekan, 68, of Nigeria, are from countries with significant Muslim populations.

Popes usually reign for life but in a book in 2010, Benedict said he would not hesitate to become the first pontiff to resign in more than 700 years if he felt no longer able "physically, psychologically and spiritually" to run the Catholic Church.

Benedict had increasingly been showing signs of frailty and fatigue.

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Image: Pope Benedict XVI is helped as he arrives to attend a meeting with seminarians at the Romano Maggiore seminary in Rome
Photographs: Tony Gentile/Reuters

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When he left for Mexico and Cuba last year, he used a cane at the airport for the first time in public, though sources say he has been using it in private for some time.

Last year, to conserve his strength, he began using a mobile platform instead of walking up the aisle of St Peter's Basilica.

The Vatican then said that it was to spare him fatigue and that there was no concern about his overall health.

His brother had said Benedict suffered two mild strokes before his election in 2005 and he reportedly suffers from high blood pressure and arthritis.

 


Image: Pope Benedict XVI gestures as he blesses at the end of the Angelus prayer in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican
Photographs: Stefano Rellandini/Reuters

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