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Pope Benedict quitting Feb. 28; pontiff cites poor health for first papal resignation since 1415

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Pope Benedict XVI, 85, announced Monday he was resigning his seat because of health reasons, effective Feb. 28.

The resignation is the first from a pope in roughly 600 years.

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In a statement in Latin to the cardinals, the pope said: "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."

He also said, in his statement published by various media: "In today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strengths which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me."

A new pope could be elected as early as March, according to various media.

Fox News's Father Jonathan Morris finds the announcement a shocker — an "unforgettable moment in the history of the church," he said.

"It's a phone call you never, never expect to get," he said, in a Monday morning telephone interview on Fox News just minutes before he was to board an airplane. "Not that the pope has died — but the pope has resigned. This is stunning."

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