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The Boston Globe

World

Pontiff’s mission clouded by sex abuse scandal

Efforts to foster traditions, faith split Catholics

VATICAN CITY — Benedict XVI always cast himself as the reluctant pope, a bookworm who preferred solitary walks in the Alps to the public glare and the majesty of Vatican pageantry. But once in office, he never shied from charting the Catholic Church on the course he thought it needed — a determination reflected in his announcement Monday that he would be the first pope to resign since 1415.

While taking the Vatican and world by surprise, Benedict had laid the groundwork for the decision years ago, saying popes have the obligation to resign if they get too old or sick to carry on. And to many, his decision was in keeping with a man who had dedicated his life to the church, showing his love for the institution and a courageous acknowledgment that it needed new blood to confront the future.

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