World Bulletin / News Desk
Pope Benedict surprised the world on Monday by saying he no longer had the mental and physical strength to cope with the demands of his ministry, becoming the first pontiff to step down since the Middle Ages and leaving his aides "incredulous".
The 85-year-old German-born Pope said he had noticed that his strength had deteriorated over recent months.
A Vatican spokesman said the Pope had not resigned because of "difficulties in the papacy" and the decision had been a surprise, indicating that even his closest aides were unaware that he was about to quit. The Pope does not fear schism in the Church after his resignation, the spokesman said.
The Pope's leadership of 1.2 billion Catholics has been beset by a child sexual abuse crisis that tarnished the Church, one address in which he upset Muslims and a scandal over the leaking of his private papers by his personal butler.
In a statement, the pope said in order to govern "...both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.
"For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter."
In recent months, the Pope has looked increasingly frail in public sometimes being helped to walk by those around him.
A Vatican spokesman said the pontiff would step down from 1900 GMT on Feb. 28, leaving the office vacant until a successor was chosen to Benedict who succeeded John Paul.
STRING OF SCANDALS
The child abuse scandals hounded most of his papacy. He ordered an official inquiry into abuse in Ireland, which led to the resignation of several bishops.
Scandal from a source much closer to home hit in 2012 when the pontiff's butler, responsible for dressing him and bringing him meals, was found to be the source of leaked documents alleging corruption in the Vatican's business dealings, causing an international furore.
His trip to Germany also prompted the first major crisis of his pontificate. In a university lecture he angered Muslims. After protests, the Pope later said he regretted any misunderstanding the speech caused.
In a move that was widely seen as conciliatory, in late 2006 he made a historic trip to predominantly Muslim Turkey and prayed in Istanbul's Blue Mosque with a Turkish Mufti.
But months later, former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami met the Pope and said wounds between Christians and Muslims were still "very deep" as a result of the Regensburg speech.Last Mod: 11 Şubat 2013, 14:40