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Pope Benedict XVI during the meeting with cardinals in which he made his announcement (Photo: CNS)

Religious leaders express their surprise – including even the Vatican spokesman, Fr Federico Lombardi

The Pope makes his announcement at a meeting of Vatican cardinals (Photo: PA)

Pope will step down for health reasons on February 28

Young people in an overflow room in Rome watch a video feed of the concert (Photo: CNS)

The band’s singer tells audience how he swapped ‘alcohol, drugs and women’ for joy of faith

Michael Gove addresses the House of Commons PA Photos

Catholic Education Service says the announcement yesterday fails to elevate RE as a core subject

Birth rates for boys and girls vary depending on where their mothers were born (Photo: PA)

Health Minister says tests would be too costly and cause distress to women having abortions

Bishop Philip Egan (Photo: Mazur)

Bishop Egan issued the warning after MPs voted in favour of the legislation by a sizeable majority

Cardinal Roger Mahony (CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)

Cardinal Mahony is disciplined after files show failure to address abuse allegations

Under current law pharmacists may refuse to sell the pill but must direct the customer to another provider (Photo: PA)

Academics say right of pharmacists to refuse to sell the pill should be abolished

Lord Carlile says doctors who put patients on the end-of-life pathway without their consent should be struck off (Photo: PA)

Lord Carlile says doctors who put patients on the end-of-life pathway without their consent should be struck off

MPs will debate the Bill at its second reading next Tuesday (Photo: PA)

Here we publish the bishops’ conference briefing in full