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Pope: "My strengths ... are no longer suited"

ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: Pope Benedict said on Monday that he will resign on Feb 28 because he no longer had the strength to fulfill the duties of his office, becoming the first pontiff since the Middle Ages to take such a step. The pope, leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, made the announcement at a meeting of cardinals on Monday. The German-born Pope, 85, admired as a hero by conservative Roman Catholics and viewed with suspicion by liberals, told cardinals in Latin that his strength had deteriorated recently. "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," the Pope said. "I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. "However, 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 Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, 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 recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me." 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, one of history's most popular pontiffs.

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