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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

Benedict XVI ventures into the world of social media with a papal tweet (Photo: CNS)

In World Communications Day message Benedict XVI emphasises the value of ‘reasoned debate’

Vietnam's ruling Communist Party held a congress in Hanoi last year in which Nguyen Phu Trong was elected leader (Photo: PA)

Meeting comes as restrictions on Catholics in some parts of Vietnam are being eased

Pope Benedict XVI blesses the faithful as he leaves after celebrating Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, on New Year's Day. (Photo: PA)

Six things to pray for in 2013

Ireland, marriage, Parliament, Pope Benedict XVI and atheists all need our prayers in 2013, says Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith.

Benedict XVI gives his blessing following the Urbi et Orbi address yesterday (AP)

Pope says Christians should ask: ‘What would happen if Mary and Joseph were to knock at my door?’

Benedict XVI addresses the Curia in the Clementine Hall at the Vatican (Photo: CNS)

Benedict XVI gave annual pre-Christmas speech to the Curia today

Benedict XVI celebrates Mass at St Patrick parish in the eastern suburbs of Rome (Photo: CNS)

Benedict XVI says Christians cannot collude with anything that undermines ‘noble vision of human destiny’

OLYMPIAN READS CHAPTERS OF THE BIBLE DURING BIBLE-READING MARATHON

Athletes, authors and royals can agree that it’s the greatest job of all

Archbishop Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (Photo: CNS)

Archbishop Müller says members have often ‘sacrificed a great deal to be true to their consciences’