Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI has announced that he will be stepping down. The Pope announced Monday he plans to resign on February 28.

FOX News Radio's Courtney Walsh reports from Rome:

The decision to resign, the first by a Pope in almost 600 years, took all by surprise. But papal spokesman Federico Lombardi said it had evolved over the past few months and was not due to illness.

The 85-year-old Pope said he felt too fatigued to continue as the leader of the world's billion plus Catholics and is leaving for the good of the church.

Benedict asked for forgiveness for his faults.

A conclave, a secret meeting of Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel is expected to elect a new Pope by the end of March, in time for Easter.

In Rome, Courtney Walsh, FOX News Radio.

LISTEN to Pope Benedict XVI read his resignation (translated from Latin):

CLICK HERE to read Pope Benedict XVI's announcement.

Benedict XVI

The Pope's decision to resign is a rare one.

FOX News Radio's Simon Owen reports from London.

It's the first time in almost 600 years that a Pope has stepped down from the position. And Pope Benedict XVI says he's he's fully aware of the gravity of the move.

The Pope was last seen in public only yesterday, he was also tweeting Sunday.

And Popes are allowed to resign. A handful have done so in the past but generally, they don't. It's thought that's to avoid possible divisions and instability if there are two Popes around, even if one has retired.

The Vatican says a new Pope is expected to be elected by the end of March.

In London, Simon Owen, FOX News Radio.

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