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Pope Benedict's resignation announcement surprised closest peers

In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict XVI delivers his message at the end of a meeting of Vatican cardinals, at the Vatican on Monday. Benedict XVI announced Monday that he would resign Feb. 28 - the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years. The decision sets the stage for a conclave to elect a new pope before the end of March. Photo by L'Osservatore Romano/The Associated Press