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Incredulity, shock and humility - The world reacts to Pope Benedict's resignation

Today’s announcement caught the world unawares. Here’s some of the initial reactions.

Pope Benedict XVI (file photo)
Pope Benedict XVI (file photo)
Image: Leon Neal/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Updated 16:37

THE GLOBAL REACTION to the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI has been swift and, for the most part, disbelieving.

The overriding reaction has been one of shock, not just at the news but at the fact that resignation was in fact an option.

The last pope to resign had been Pope Gregory XII in 1415.

The pope’s official Twitter page still carries no mention of the news. The most recent tweet, from yesterday, said the following:

The current director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr Federico Lombardi, had said that the announcement had left his aides ‘incredulous’.

Media reactions

BBC News said that it had been a “shock resignation” while The Independent cited his health as the reason.

The Telegraph went further, saying that his decision was evidence of the pope’s ‘deep humility’.

Der Spiegel’s headline said that the pope had bowed out in a “surprise development”.

Italian papers

One of Italy’s biggest newspapers, La Repubblica, ran an image of Pope Benedict before a large crowd, with the headline dominated by his own words: “I feel I no longer have the strength”.

Corriere della Sera carried an altogether less crowded image, showing the pope alone and illuminated against the dark, with another quote looming large: “I leave for the good of the church”.

Political reaction

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny said that it was “clearly a decision which the Holy Father has taken following careful consideration and deep prayer and reflection”, adding:

This is a historic day in the life of the Catholic Church and for the many millions of Catholics, both here in Ireland and around the world. Pope Benedict has given strong leadership and great service to the Church and her people for many decades.

The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, said that it was “amazing that he [Pope Benedict] has continued with a full schedule up until now”, adding that it had become very clear that his health had been declining over the last month or so.

He also praised the work that had been carried out by the pope, saying:

The attitude of the Vatican changed significantly under his pontificate. They took a much stronger line in relation to these  [sex abuse] issues. He was very interested in Ireland.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said that Pope Benedict would be “missed as a spiritual leader to millions.”

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti tweeted that he was shocked by the “unexpected news”.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued the following statement on behalf of the government:

The federal government has the greatest possible respect for the Holy Father, for his accomplishments, for his life-long work for the Catholic Church.

French president, François Hollande, said that the decision was “eminently respectable,” Al Jazeera is reporting, adding that he said that his country “hails the pope who took this decision”.

Read: Pope Benedict resigns, cites ‘advanced age’ and deteriorating health >

More: Pope’s brother: Pontiff was ‘considering resignation for months’ >

In pictures: From Cardinal Ratzinger to Pope Benedict XVI >

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About the author:

Paul Hyland

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