Pope Benedict XVI will resign from his role as head of the Catholic church on the 28<sup>th February, the first person to do so in nearly 600 years.

The 85-year-old Roman Catholic Church leader, Joseph Ratzinger, in a shcok announcement said he would step down at the end of the month because his deteriorating health and old age meant he no longer had the "strength" to go on as the leader of the world's one billion Catholics.

In a statement 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 added, "I am well aware of the seriousness of this act".

Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005 following the death of Pope John Paul II, who served as leader of the Catholic church for 27 years. The last Pope to resign was Gregory XII in 1415, during the Western Schism where both he and his opponents John XXIII and Benedict XII contested the Papacy.

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Written and presented by Alfred Joyner