Pope Benedict XVI announced this morning that “no longer adequate to continue in office due to his advanced age”.

The choice to resign is said to have been in “full freedom”, according to Pope Benedict, who also said that he was “fully aware of the gravity of this gesture”.

Previously Popes rarely resign from the position; it is normally a job undertaken until their death. Benedict, originally from Germany, became Pope in April 2005 at the age of 78.

An official statement released today from the Pope, now aged 85, read: “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”

“In today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.”

The Vatican have announced that the Pope intends to leave his post on February 28.

Here’s a video of the Pope having a small snooze during a visit to Malta…