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Pope Benedict XVI made the surprise announcement in Latin today to a group of Cardinals gathered at the Vatican.
The 85-year-old said Feb. 28 will be his last day. A spokesman said Benedict will then live in a convent and play no role in who will follow him as Pope.
Some liberal Roman Catholics have called on Benedict to resign for not doing enough to address the sexual abuse of children by priests.
But as The New York Times points out, “As the leader of the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he had been ahead of many of his peers in recognizing how deeply the church had been damaged by revelations that priests around the world had sexually abused youths for decades. As early as 2005, he obliquely referred to priestly abuse as a ‘filth in the church.'”
Watch the pope’s announcement: