(BBC ) The Pope is to resign at the end of this month in an entirely unexpected development, the Vatican has confirmed.
The 85-year-old became Pope Benedict XVI in April 2005 following the death of John Paul II. The reasons behind the head of the Catholic Church's surprise resignation have yet to emerge.
Resignations from the papacy are not unknown, but this is the first in the modern era, which has been marked by pontiffs dying while in office.
At 78, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was one of the oldest new popes in history when elected.
He took the helm as one of the fiercest storms the Catholic Church has faced in decades - the scandal of child sex abuse by priests - was breaking.