The reign of Pope Benedict XVI

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Visit to Bavaria

Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation Monday, the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years. See gallery

Pope Benedict XVI celebrates holy mass at Islinger Feld on Sept. 12, 2006, in Regensburg, Germany. About 250,000 believers were expected to attend the Mass, celebrated in an open field just south of the city. The field rises slightly toward the altar hill, giving pilgrims a clear view. 

RELATED: Pope Benedict announces resignation

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Private library

Pope Benedict XVI meets with Prince Albert II of Monaco at the Pope's private library Dec. 5, 2005, in Vatican City. 

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Before addressing the faithful

Pope Benedict XVI kisses the altar before addressing the faithful at the Basilica of the Black Madonna in the Jasna Góra Monastery on May 26, 2006, in Czestochowa, Poland. The pope visited the Jasna Góra shrine, the home of the Black Madonna — an image of the Virgin Mary holding Jesus — during his tour of Poland, following n the footsteps of the late Pope John Paul II. 

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Piano in the summer

Pope Benedict XVI plays piano at his summer residence on July 17, 2006, in Les Combes, Val D'Aosta, Italy.

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Portrait with children

Pope Benedict XVI poses with children in the garden of his holiday residence for the Sunday Angelus prayer on July 23, 2006, in Les Combes, Italy. The pontiff designated the Sunday prayer to the Middle East crisis.

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Prayer in Bavaria

Pope Benedict XVI leads an open-air Mass for an estimated 250,000 pilgrims on Sept. 9, 2006, in Munich, Germany. The Bavarian capital is important to the pope, born Joseph Ratzinger, a priest, archbishop and cardinal who was elected pope on April 19, 2005. Born April 16, 1927, in Marktl am Inn in the diocese of Passau, Ratzinger grew up within the borders of the archbishopric of Munich and Freising, where he later served as archbishop from 1977 to 1982.

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Visiting Verona

Pope Benedict XVI attends a Mass at Verona Stadium on Oct. 19, 2006, during a one-day visit to Verona, Italy. 

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Holy Land pilgrimage

Pope Benedict XVI and Israeli President Shimon Peres tour the garden of the Presidential Residence on May 11, 2009, in Jerusalem.

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Sea of red

Pope Benedict XVI presides over a mass at Westminster Cathedral during the third day of his state visit to London on Sept.18, 2010. During Mass, the pope apologized for the "unspeakable" crimes committed against children abused by Catholic priests and expressed his "deep sorrow" for the "immense suffering."

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Visit to Berlin

Pope Benedict XVI leads mass for 70,000 visitors at Olympiic stadium on Sept. 22, 2011, in Berlin. The pope, who is German, was in Berlin on the first of a four-day visit to Germany.

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Consejos de Estado

Pope Benedict XVI and Cuban President Raul Castro wave to the media after a meeting at the Consejos de Estado in Havana, Cuba, on March 27, 2012, the second day of his three-day visit to the country. Fourteen years after Pope John Paul II visited Cuba, Pope Benedict made his first trip to the communist country. 

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La Scala

Pope Benedict XVI praises a performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony during a concert at La Scala Theater on June 1, 2012, in Milan. The pope was in Milan to attend events focused on the institution of the family. The World Meeting of Families was instituted by Pope John Paul II in 1994 to promote the value of families. 

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Holy Communion

Pope Benedict XVI offers a nun the Holy Communion at a Chrism Mass inside St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on April 9, 2009. The pope celebrated Holy Thursday mass that included the traditional blessing of holy oils — some of which the church sent to an earthquake zone as a sign of closeness to the stricken population.

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In procession

Pope Benedict XVI stands by the salvaged remains of Pope Celestine V on April 28, 2009, in the 13th-century Santa Maria di Collemaggio Basilica, the symbol of the city of L'Aquila, Italy, whose roof partially caved in during an earthquake.


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Arrival in Mexico

Pope Benedict XVI, wearing a Mexican sombrero, waves from the popemobile as he arrives to give Mass in Bicentennial Park near Silao, Mexico, on March 25, 2012.

RELATED: Papal succession: Can a Latin American claim the papacy?

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Airport welcome

Mexico's President Felipe Calderon, left, looks on as Pope Benedict XVI is greeted by children at the airport in Silao, Mexico, during his first visit to the country March 23, 2012.

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Waving to the crowd

Pope Benedict XVI greets the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, moments after being elected on April 19, 2005.

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Becoming Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI holds a cross while celebrating his installment mass in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican April 24, 2005.

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Obamas visit with the pope

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama meet with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican on July 10, 2009.

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St. Paul's Grotto

Pope Benedict XVI prays inside St. Paul's Grotto in Rabat, Malta, on April 17, 2010. Roman Catholicism has been "wounded by our sins," the pope said at the start of a two-day visit to Malta, but he avoided directly referring to the sexual abuse scandals that swept the world's largest church. The pope visited the grotto where St. Paul is believed to have stayed when he came to Malta in 60 A.D., converting the islanders to Christianity.

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The faithful gathered

Pope Benedict XVI waves to the crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square on May 16, 2010, during his weekly Angelus blessing at the Vatican.    

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The pope and the Queen of England

Pope Benedict XVI replaces his zucchetto as he stands with Britain's Queen Elizabeth II at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland, Sept. 16, 2010.



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In West London

Pope Benedict XVI arrives for a meeting of religious leaders at St. Mary's University College Chapel at Twickenham in West London Sept. 17, 2010.

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Canterbury greeting

Britain's former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams greets Pope Benedict XVI at Lambeth Palace in London on Sept. 17, 2010. Pope Benedict's security was in the spotlight after London police arrested five men on suspicion of preparing an attack on the pontiff.

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Pope blesses a baby

Pope Benedict XVI kisses a baby on June 22, 2011, during the weekly audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican.  

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All cameras on the Pope

Pope Benedict XVI arrives to lead the weekly general audience at his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo in southern Rome on Aug. 17, 2011. 

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Kiss from a king

Spain's King Juan Carlos kisses the ring of Pope Benedict XVI after the pope's arrival at Madrid's Barajas Airport on Aug. 18, 2011.

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The pope and a tiger

Pope Benedict XVI caresses a young tiger as he leads a special audience for circus artists and musicians in Paul VI's Hall at the Vatican on Dec. 1, 2012.

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On Twitter

Pope Benedict XVI began tweeting on Dec. 12, 2012. His handle, @pontifex, beat out other contenders that had been considered to showcase the thoughts of one of the world's most visible leaders.

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Traditional crèche

Pope Benedict XVI leaves after visiting the traditional Nativity scene in St. Peter's Square on Dec. 31, 2012. 

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Romano Maggiore

Pope Benedict XVI arrives to attend a meeting with seminarians at the Romano Maggiore seminary in Rome on Feb. 8.

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Pope Benedict XVI leaves after attending a consistory at the Vatican Feb. 11.

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Quiet time

Pope Benedict XVI sits on a garden bench on July 31, 2008, during his annual holiday in Bressanone, northern Italy.

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Meeting students

Pope Benedict XVI greets participants of the first European Meeting of University Students at the Vatican on July 11, 2009.

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Grand entrance at La Scala

Pope Benedict XVI arrives at a concert at La Scala opera house in Milan on June 1, 2012.

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Pastoral visit

A priest adjusts Pope Benedict XVI's hat as he leads a mass during his pastoral visit in Loreto, Italy, Oct. 4, 2012.

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All Soul's Day

Pope Benedict XVI prays in front of the tombs of late popes during the traditional All Souls' Day prayers in the Vatican Grottoes on Nov. 2, 2012. 

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Open-air Mass in Beirut

Pope Benedict XVI waves to the faithful from his popemobile in Beirut, where he arrived Sept. 16, 2012, to conduct an open-air Mass at the Beirut City Center Waterfront. 

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The Western Wall

Pope Benedict XVI visits the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site, in Jerusalem's Old City on May 12, 2009. The pope visited holy sites in Jerusalem at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as part of a pilgrimage that was beset by Jewish disappointment over his remarks on the Holocaust.

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Way of the cross

Pope Benedict XVI waves to the faithful gathered at the Roman Colosseum during the Way of the Cross procession on Good Friday in 2012. The traditional Catholic procession recalls the crucifixion of Jesus Christ ahead of the Easter holiday.