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Pope Benedict XVI, who was the first pope to embrace the social media site, Twitter, has announced that he will resign at the end of this month, becoming the first Bishop of Rome that has done so in over 600 years.
The Vatican Today reported that the head of the more than one billion members of the Catholic Church gave an address to a meeting of cardinals. His announcement, delivered in Latin, stated that his declining health has left him unable to fulfill the duties of the papacy.
“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 said.
The news has sent shockwaves from Vatican City, but Pope Benedict has confidence that he has made the right decision.
“In order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me," he added.
Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, spoke to USA Today and revealed that although the pope will resign on February 28, there will be a new pope instated before March 31.
“Before Easter, we will have the new pope. (Resigning) is not a decision he has just improvised," Lombardi said. "It's a decision he has pondered.”
In order to elect a new pope, a conclave of 80 cardinals assembles to cast ballots. The heavily guarded process begins with a mass held at the Sistine Chapel and concludes when one cardinal receives the required two-thirds of the votes. At that time, white smoke signals to the citizens of Rome that there is a new Supreme Pontiff.
Pope Benedict XVI was elected on the fourth ballot.