Pope Benedict XVI surprised the world by announcing that he would resign by February 28. The Pope is the spiritual leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics. It is a lifetime position, but at age 85, Benedict says his advanced age makes it hard to do his job. "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 ministry," Benedict said in a statement.
Born Joseph Ratzinger, he chose the name Benedict XVI when he was elected Pope in 2005. He was the first German Pope in almost 1,000 years. Now, Benedict will be the first Pope to resign in nearly 600 years. The last Pope to resign was Gregory XII, in 1415.
Picking a new Pope is not an easy task. A group of 117 cardinals will gather to vote in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel. It typically takes two to three weeks to assemble the group members, who come to Vatican City from around the world. But the Vatican is trying to move quickly. The meeting is expected to start on March 15. The voting will be held behind closed doors. A white puff of smoke in Saint Peter's Square will signal the announcement of a new Pope.
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