Pope Benedict XVI announces resignation
Pope Benedict XVI has resigned, saying that at his age he cannot carry out all his tasks adequately and is losing strength in body and mind. His brother Georg suggested he was finding it difficult to walk and had been advised to stop making transatlantic journeys.
• The pope will step down on 28 February. A papal conclave will follow to elect his successor, who will be in place by the end of March, and perhaps in time for holy week on 24 March.
• Ghana’s Cardinal Peter Turkson, Nigeria’s Cardinal Francis Arinze, Canada’s Cardinal Marc Ouellet, and Italy’s Angelo Scola emerged as some of the leading candidates to succeed Benedict. One of the next pope's first trips abroad is likely to be to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day on 1 July.
• Benedict says he wishes to continue to serve the Catholic church "through a life dedicated to prayer". He will revert to his former title of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger upon his resignation, the Catholic church in England said. There was “absolute silence” this morning when the pope told cardinals the news, according to Mexican prelate Monsignor Oscar Sanchez, who witnessed his resignation.
• The pope made his decision over the last few months, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said, and it took all his closest aides by surprise. He will honour his commitments until he steps down. Lombardi said this was Benedict’s own personal decision. Upon resigning, he will go to the papal summer residence near Rome, and then will move to a cloistered residence in the Vatican, which may make life difficult for his successor.
• The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, the head of the Anglican church, said he had learned of the pope's resignation with a "heavy heart but complete understanding".
• The last pope to resign was Gregory XII, in 1415.
• Child abuse victims in Ireland and the US criticised Benedict for not having done more to deal with the scandals of paedophile priests in the Catholic church.
I'm going to hand over to my colleague Tom McCarthy in New York now for continuing coverage of the reaction to Pope Benedict's resignation
source: The Guardian