ZANIS COPY-Pope Benedict XVI to step down

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The Vatican City has said Pope Benedict the XVI is to resign at the end of this month due to ill health.


Pope Benedict XVI said he would resign because he no longer has the strength to fulfill the duties of his office.


"For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, successor of Saint Peter," he said in a statement from the Vatican.


And Vatican spokesperson Federico Lombardi said Pope Benedict XVI will leave the ministry at 08:00 hours on 28th February 2013.


Lombardi disclosed that Cardinals will now meet and decide upon a successor.


The 85-year old became Pope in April 2005 following the death of Pope John Paul II.