Before an audience of Cardinals Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation. Addressing the Cardinals and the Church in general he said: "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... 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, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant". He thanked the cardinals for their support and asked "pardon for all my defects".
Benedict is the first Pope to resign his office in almost 600 years and will be in the position of living through the beginning of his Successors ministry as Bishop of Rome and Successor of St. Peter. The intention of Benedict VXI is to take up a life of seclusion and prayer.
The conclave to elect a new pope will begin in mid March.
On Wednesday 11th February Benedict XVI gave his weekly Wednesday Audience in a crowded St Paul VI auditorium. As he entered he was given a standing ovation which lasted long after he had taken his seat.
He received the ash cross from one of his cardinals and then distributed them to his brethren.