SUUUURE

Benedict: I Wasn’t Forced Out

Speaking out for the first time about rumors that he was forced to step down as pontiff, former Pope Benedict said Wednesday, "There is absolutely no doubt regarding the validity of my resignation from the Petrine ministry." In a letter to the Italian website Vatican Insider, Benedict wrote, "The only condition for the validity of my resignation is the complete freedom of my decision. Speculation regarding its validity is simple absurd.” Benedict became the first pope in 600 years to quit when he stepped down in February 2013, citing health concerns. Everyone else died in office.