Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world when he announced his surprise resignation on Feb. 11 – and The ENQUIRER goes behind the scenes to unearth the REAL reason behind the bombshell decision!

In a public statement, the pope cited his “advanced age” and failing health of “mind and body” in becoming the first pontiff to abdicate in 600 years.

But Vatican sources tell us that’s just the tip of the iceberg, as he’s actually dealing with a terrifying health crisis.

“He’s been undergoing secret medical tests and it’s plunged the inner sanctum of the Vatican into turmoil,” revealed one of our sources.

“Benedict decided he should go out now because he’s living in a fishbowl and doesn’t want his personal health issues affecting his job.”

The Pope’s resignation is effective on Feb 28, and a medical expert told The ENQUIRER it’s “highly suspicious” that the leader of the Catholic Church gave just a few weeks notice.

“He may fear he has only months to live or that his treatment may leave him unable to serve his office,” noted the expert.

The Pope’s shocking decision was heard around the world, but now you’ll read the hidden story behind the papal tumult only in the latest issue of The ENQUIRER – on sale now at a newsstand near you!