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Church in uncharted waters after pope resignation move

Published on Feb 12, 2013 9:25 AM

VATICAN CITY (AFP) - The Catholic Church has entered uncharted waters after Pope Benedict XVI's shock announcement that he would become the first pontiff to resign of his own free will in 700 years.

The 85-year-old Benedict told a group of cardinals in a speech in Latin on Monday that he will step down on February 28 because his advancing age prevented him from carrying out his duties in a fast-changing world.

Only a few advisers knew of the pope's plan beforehand and many leaders of the Vatican hierarchy were caught off guard, with Cardinal Angelo Sodano saying the announcement came "like a lightning bolt in a clear blue sky".

Ordinary faithful among the world's 1.1 billion Catholics were divided.

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