Pope Benedict announces resignation, first in 600 years

Stating, "in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, bothstrength 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 incapacityto adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me," Pope Benedict XVI announced,Monday, his resignation, effective February 28 at 20:00 hours.

Benedict'sresignation makes him the first pontiff to leave the papacy in nearly 600years.

The85-year-old Benedict announced his decision in Latin during a meeting ofVatican cardinals on this morning, saying that "my strengths due to anadvanced age are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrineministry."

A conclaveto elect a new pope will take place before the end of March.