NEW INFO: Pope Says He Is Stepping Down For "The Good Of The Church"

Pope Benedict XVI is telling the faithful in his first public appearance since announcing his resignation that he stepping down for "the good of the church."

Benedict received a lengthy standing ovation when he entered the packed audience hall Wednesday. He was interrupted by applause by the throngs of people, many of whom had tears in their eyes.

At the start of his audience, he repeated in Italian what he had told cardinals Monday in Latin: that he simply didn't have the strength to continue. He said "I did this in full liberty for the good of the church."

He asked the faithful "to continue to pray for the pope and the church."


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The Vatican is acknowledging for the first time that Pope Benedict XVI has had a pacemaker for years and that its battery was replaced a few months ago in secret.

Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said Benedict had the pacemaker installed "a long time" before he became pope in 2005. He called the latest medical procedure "routine."

It was the first time the Vatican has mentioned a papal pacemaker.

Italian daily Il Sole 24 said the pope had the pacemaker procedure less than three months ago in a Rome hospital and did not miss any public appearances.

Benedict is resigning on Feb. 28 because he says he has become too infirm to handle the burdens of the papacy. He will become the first pope to step down in six centuries.


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Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday that he would resign Feb. 28 -- the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years. The decision sets the stage for a conclave to elect a new pope before the end of March.

The 85-year-old pope announced his decision in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals on Monday morning.

He emphasized that carrying out the duties of being pope -- the leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics worldwide -- requires "both strength of mind and body."

"After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths due to an advanced age are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry," he told the cardinals. "I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only by words and deeds but no less with prayer and suffering.

"However, in today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary -- strengths which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me."

The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415 in a deal to end the Great Western Schism among competing papal claimants.

Benedict called his choice "a decision of great importance for the life of the church."

The move sets the stage for the Vatican to hold a conclave to elect a new pope by mid-March, since the traditional mourning time that would follow the death of a pope doesn't have to be observed.

There are several papal contenders in the wings, but no obvious front-runner -- the same situation when Benedict was elected pontiff in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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