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Pope Benedict, the 265th Pope to lead the worldwide Catholic church, will step down on February 28, a Vatican spokesman tells ASNA, the Italian news agency.
At this point, no reasons have been provided for the decision. The 85-year-old pontiff appeared to have some health problems in the last year - he started using a cane and recently seemed to have difficult reading an address he delivered in Rome.
The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was one of the oldest new popes, at 78, when elected to succeed John Paul II in April 2005.
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