Pope Benedict Resigns Due to 'Advanced Age'

(UPDATED) Becomes first pope in almost 600 years to voluntarily step down.

Update (March 1): Pope Bendedict XVI officially stepped down from his position as leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics yesterday. He is the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years, but World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) Theological Commission chairman Thomas Schirrmacher, a Protestant expert on the Catholic Church, says he has not been surprised by the events.

"Pope Benedict had made it unmistakably clear...that when a pope is physically or mentally no longer in a position to lead the Church, he has the right, "indeed under certain circumstances the duty," to step down," Schirrmacher said in a WEA interview. "Presumably it will not be the last resignation due to reasons of age but should rather become the rule."

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Pope Benedict XVI will resign his position as leader of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church at the end of February. The 85-year-old pontiff, elected in 2005, cited his "advanced age" and the "rapid changes" of today's world.

"After having ...

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