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The Vatican has confirmed Pope Benedict XVI is to resign because of ill health.

The 85-year-old became Pope in April 2005 following the death of Pope John Paul II.

Pope Benedict said he would resign because he no longer had the strength to fulfill the duties of his office.

"For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter," he said according to a statement from the Vatican.

"The pope announced that he will leave his ministry at 8:00 pm (7am March 1 AEST) on February 28," said a Vatican spokesman, Federico Lombardi.

The Vatican spokesman also added that Cardinals will now meet and decide upon a successor.

More to come ...

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