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ROME - Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday made his first public appearance since stunning the world and his Catholic flock with the announcement of his decision to become the first pontiff in nearly 600 years to resign.

Telling a crowd in the Vatican auditorium that the historic resignation was "for the good of the Church," the Pope thanked believers at the traditional weekly General Audience and those around the world for their “love and prayers” and asked them to “keep praying, not only for me, but for the Church and the future Pope.”

The Pope appeared somewhat frail and spoke in a quiet voice, but smiled at the large crowd gathered before him who applauded at length.

The 85-year-old Pope announced Monday that he was too weak to continue in the role, and would step down on Feb. 28. "As you know, I have decided to renounce the ministry that the Lord gave to me on April 19, 2005," he said, to applause. "I did this in full liberty for the good of the church."

Many open questions remain, including what the "Emeritus" pontiff will actually be called, and whether he will have any role in the future governance of the church. Every one of Benedict's predecessors since the 15th century had served until death. The Vatican has said the Pope has no specific ailment that is behind the decision, though on Tuesday it was confirmed that Benedict has a pacemaker.

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Geopolitics

New Probe Finds Pro-Bolsonaro Fake News Dominated Social Media Through Campaign

Ahead of Brazil's national elections Sunday, the most interacted-with posts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram and WhatsApp contradict trustworthy information about the public’s voting intentions.

Jair Bolsonaro bogus claims perform well online

Cris Faga/ZUMA
Laura Scofield and Matheus Santino

SÂO PAULO — If you only got your news from social media, you might be mistaken for thinking that Jair Bolsonaro is leading the polls for Brazil’s upcoming presidential elections, which will take place this Sunday. Such a view flies in the face of what most of the polling institutes registered with the Superior Electoral Court indicate.

An exclusive investigation by the Brazilian investigative journalism agency Agência Pública has revealed how the most interacted-with and shared posts in Brazil on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Telegram and WhatsApp share data and polls that suggest victory is certain for the incumbent Bolsonaro, as well as propagating conspiracy theories based on false allegations that research institutes carrying out polling have been bribed by Bolsonaro’s main rival, former president Luís Inácio Lula da Silva, or by his party, the Workers’ Party.

Agência Pública’s reporters analyzed the most-shared posts containing the phrase “pesquisa eleitoral” [electoral polls] in the period between the official start of the campaigning period, on August 16, to September 6. The analysis revealed that the most interacted-with and shared posts on social media spread false information or predicted victory for Jair Bolsonaro.

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