(VATICAN CITY) — Pope Benedict XVI, the first Roman Catholic pontiff to abdicate in nearly 600 years, told priest and clergy gathered in Vatican City on Thursday that he would hold no public office when his resignation becomes effective on Feb. 28.
In fact, Benedict, the pope since John Paul II’s passing in 2005, plans to make himself scarce, telling the Diocese of Rome he will be “hidden to the world.”
The pope’s stunning announcement last Monday is still reverberating at the Vatican and around the world as cardinals will be assigned the task in March of finding the next leader of the Roman Catholic Church.
Benedict said age and failing health were his reasons for stepping down.
It has since been revealed by the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano that Benedict actually made his decision to retire after returning from a trip to Mexico last March.
A Vatican spokesman did confirm a report by another newspaper that Benedict hit his head while on that visit but the Rev. Federico Lombardi firmly disputed the contention that the accident had anything to do with Benedict’s ultimate choice to end his papacy.
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Joe Sterling and Darran Simon, CNN
Eliza Mackintosh, CNN
Samantha Beech, CNN