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Update: Pope Benedict to resign his post

PUBLISHED: 11:43 11 February 2013 | UPDATED: 12:56 11 February 2013

Pope Benedict XVI blesses faithful at the end of his visit at the Roman seminary, in Rome Sunday, Feb. 8, 2013. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Pope Benedict XVI blesses faithful at the end of his visit at the Roman seminary, in Rome Sunday, Feb. 8, 2013. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Prayers are being said in East Anglian churches for the pope who has announced he is to

resign his office after declaring he was too old to carry on as head of the Catholic Church.

Pope Benedict XVI will quit on February 28, the Vatican said today, adding the announcement was a surprise.

A statement from Father Mark Hackeson, spokesman for the Diocese of East Anglia, said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Holy Father at this time. His statement makes clear that his decision comes after long consideration and prayer, and illustrates his complete commitment to the church and her mission.”

A Vatican statement said the pope was unable to continue in office due to his age and diminishing strength, he is 85, and the papacy will remain vacant until a successor is elected.

He is the first pontiff to resign in nearly 600 years. The decision sets the stage for a conclave to elect a new pope before the end of March.

The pope announced his decision in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals this morning.

“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 told the cardinals. “I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only by words and deeds but no less with prayer and suffering.

“However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary - strengths which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognise my incapacity to adequately the ministry entrusted to me.”

See tomorrow’s paper for more on this story.

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