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Pope Benedict XVI delivers his blessing as he is driven through the crowd in St. Peter's Square in October. (Andrew Medichini/Associated Press)

Pope Benedict XVI will be resigning for health reasons by the end of February - an exceptionally rare move that caught Catholics the world over off guard.

The last pontiff to surrender the papacy was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down almost 600 years ago.

Benedict, who said he was "well aware of the seriousness of this act" explained that he has repeatedly examined his conscience before God, and is certain that his deteriorating strength have left him incapable of adequately fulfilling his duties.

Benedict's charismatic predecessor, Pope John Paul II enjoyed much popularity throughout his papacy - but Benedict, who has been described as a reluctant leader, has spent much of his term weathering controversies.

The pontiff has, for instance, faced criticism over the church's handling of sex abuse scandals and its inability to stem the decline in membership.

But others passionately defend his record, citing his willingness to improve relations with religious leaders of other faiths and his proficiency as an academic theologian.

For the estimated 1.2 billion Catholics who see the 85 year old as God's chief representative on earth, his resignation is no minor thing.

While many are already looking forward to the selection of the new Pope, who is expected to be chosen by mid-March and before Easter, others are looking back at the years Benedict spent leading the Catholic church.

Have you ever met Pope Benedict XVI? Have any of his public addresses stirred strong emotions in you? What do you think he will be most remembered for?

Upload your images of the Pope using the form below, or visit our CBC Your News Community page to upload them directly. If you haven't joined, it's easy to do so. And if you are a member, well, you already know what to do.

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