Brief: Pope Benedict quits papal position due to health issues
VATICAN CITY (AP) - With a few words in Latin, Pope Benedict XVI did what no pope has done in more than half a millennium, stunning the world by announcing his resignation Feb. 11 and leaving the already-troubled Catholic Church to replace the leader of its one-billion followers by Easter.
The Feb. 28 resignation allows for a fast-track conclave to elect a new pope, since the traditional nine days of mourning that would follow a pope's death does not have to be observed. It also gives the 85-year-old Benedict great sway over the choice of his successor. Though he will not vote, he has hand-picked the bulk of the College of Cardinals - the princes of the church who will elect his successor - to guarantee his conservative legacy and ensure an orthodox future for the church.
Benedict said as recently as 2010 that a pontiff should resign if he got too old or infirm to do the job, but it was a tremendous surprise when he said in Latin that his "strength of mind and body" had diminished and that he couldn't carry on. He said he would resign effective 8 p.m. local time on Feb. 28.
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