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Pope surprises the world, says that he will step down

Vatican Press Office via AFP - Getty Images

Pope Benedict XVI leaves a consistorio Feb. 11 at The Vatican after announcing that he will step aside.

Osservatore Romano / Reuters

Pope Benedict XVI (third from right) attends a consistory at the Vatican on Feb. 11, 2013.

Published at 10:30 a.m. ET:

L'Osservatore Romano via AP

The pope and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, hug each other after the pontiff announced that he would abdicate on Feb. 28.

By Claudio Lavanga and Alastair Jamieson, NBC News:Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday he will step aside as leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics on Feb. 28, saying he no longer has the strength to carry out his duties.

Speaking in Latin, the 85-year-old announced his decision during an address at the "Concistory for the canonization of the martyrs of Otranto", a small event held early in the morning. Read full story

Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters

Two priests walk in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Feb. 11 after the announcement.

Gregorio Borgia / AP

Postcards of Pope Benedict XVI, bottom, and the late Pope John Paul II are displayed outside a kiosk with St. Peter's Basilica in the background at the Vatican on Feb. 11.

Alessandro Di Meo / EPA

The cross on top of the St. Peter's dome is reflected in a puddle following Pope Benedict XVI's announcement of his abdication on Feb. 11.

Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005. Look back at his life from childhood through his papacy.