VIDEO: images show how Pope Benedict XVI, in a calm and surprising manner, announced in Latin that he will be resigning as the Successor of Peter



Journalists work outside St peter’s square after Pope Benedict XVI announced he will resign at the end of February

Photo by Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images These images show how Benedict XVI, in a calm and surprising manner, announced in Latin that he will be resigning as the Successor of Peter.


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  1. 2028:

    Australian Cardinal George Pell told The Australian newspaper he only found out about Pope Benedict’s resignation just before the press conference was held at the Vatican. He added: “His resignation came as a surprise to many… We pray for him as he enters retirement and we must also pray for the Church as she prepares to choose the next successor of St Peter.”

  2. 2025:

    New Zealanders are waking up to the news that Pope Benedict has chosen to resign from the papacy. The Archbishop of Wellington, the Most Reverend John Dew, told the Dominion Post he believed the decision was made in the best interests of the Church. He said: “I think it’s going to be a time for the Church throughout the world to be praying for the best possible replacement… No doubt there will be a lot of speculation because we really never know who will be chosen.”

  3. 2024:

    An Australian group representing the victims of sexual abuse, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, welcomed the Pope’s resignation, saying he had done little to stop “the reign of terror of child rapist priests”, The Australian Associated Press reported. “In the eyes of many victims, Joseph Ratzinger has personally done much to add to the huge number of victims and exponentially increase the suffering of those already harmed,” the group said in a statement.

  4. 2010:
    Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco

    The head of the Catholic Church in Spain, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco, has expressed his “deepest gratitude” to Pope Benedict for his years of service to the papacy. Speaking during a new conference in Madrid, he said that Benedict’s decision should be viewed as a “life decision” during a time of change not just for the Church, but for the world as a whole.

  5. Mary in Cambridgeshire

    emails: Whilst I’m sure the Pope has good reasons for wanting to step down, I find it a little hypocritical that he should be allowed to “break with tradition” so easily when women are banned from becoming bishops and gay marriage is seen as wrong because it’s not currently tradition for them to be so. One rule for him and one for everyone else?

  6. Catholics pray in St Patrick's Cathedral, New York

    Catholics around the world have been shocked by the pope’s news. Here two pray in St Patrick’s Cathedral, New York.

  7. 1949:

    His resignation shocked 71-year-old Georgina Gonzalez, in Havana, who blamed a “complex and turbulent” world for the retirement. Painter Carlos Martinez, meanwhile, was not upset by the news: “With Pope John Paul things were better… This Pope Benedict is our pope, and if he steps down that doesn’t mean we step down from Christ.”

  8. 1948:

    One of the Pope’s last overseas visits was a three-day trip Cuba, the first papal visit there for 14 years. Organised religion was previously banned in Cuba by Fidel Castro, but now around 10% of the Cuban population are practising Catholics.

  9. 1948:

    Pope Benedict XVI was at times controversial, at times reformist, but often conservative. He made a strong impact with his messages on faith, politics and social injustice.Read here for the opinions he expressed during his eight-year tenure.

  10. Keith Oswin

    tweets: Instead of appointing a Pope who is old from the start, the Vatican should appoint a younger Pope for a fixed 10-year term.

  11. Nick from Manila, Philippines

    emails: We must respect his decision. He tried to unite the conservative and the modern day views. He also commenced stronger inter-faith dialogue. It is of great honour and dignity that he showed his humility by admitting that he is no longer capable of the duties and needs to pass the torch over. I hope that his successor will continue his good doings and, at the same time, guide the Church through its dark times.

  12. 1935:

    Juan Carlos I, King of Spain, has expressed his appreciation of Pope Benedict’s work saying he valued the “special relationship” they shared. Benedict visited the country three times during his papacy.

  13. Adam in Manchester

    emails: So, the Pope has resigned. Someone resigns and they are replaced. I don’t see what the problem is or why all the fuss? He feels that due to his health, he can’t carry on the responsibilities of his role. Fair play to him! Other bosses should take note.

  14. Nuns in Berlin, Germany

    These nuns attended a special mass held in St Hedwig Cathedral, Berlin, Germany, following the Pope’s announcement.

  15. 1919:

    The world’s oldest existing gay rights group says it hopes Pope Benedict’s successor would be more sympathetic to homosexual people. According to news agency AFP, a spokesman for Amsterdam-based COC said he was “not sad” at the Pope’s retirement and added: “All we hope for is that the new pope will be a little kinder towards LGBTs in the Church, but also in the world in general.”

  16. 1916:

    Benedict is the first pope since Celestine V in 1294, to choose to retire of his own free will. As news agency Reuters explains, during a visit to the resting place of Celestine in July 2010, Benedict proclaimed he would not hesitate to follow in Celestine’s footsteps if he was no longer “physically, psychologically and spiritually” able to meet the demands of the papacy.

  17. John Browne, Guildford

    emails: “I’m in my fourth year of training to be a priest at St Joseph’s Seminary, Wonersh, Surrey. I along with other trainees, met the Pope when he visited Birmingham. I feel that the Pope’s decision to resign shows that he is a human being. His statement was very honest and personal, and showed great strength of character.”

  18. 1910:

    Vatican expert Marco Politi, author of a best-selling biography of Benedict, said: “This gesture was very courageous and revolutionary. This is the first time that in a period of peace for the Church, a pope decides to step down of his own free will.”

  19. 1910:

    News of the Pope’s resignation has reached the footballing world. The manager of Italian side Juventus, Antonio Conte, said the news is “best received privately and reflected upon”. The team are in Glasgow ahead of their Champions League clash with Celtic on Tuesday.

  20. Policeman holds a copy of the Vatican's newspaper

    A policeman holds up a copy of Monday’s Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, with the front page dedicated to the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.

  21. 1901:

    Speaking in the British House of Lords, the Bishop of Worcester, the Right Reverend John Inge, said Pope Benedict had made an “outstanding contribution” to the “common good”.

  22. Anthony in Coatbridge

    emails: I speak for many young Catholics when I say it’s such a shame that Pope Benedict XVI has to go, but he knows that it is for the benefit of the Church that he must retire. To go and do something which has not been done for over 600 years, since the time of Pope Celestine V, that really is quite something.

  23. 1900:

    Reaction continues to come in from Latin America. El Salvador’s foreign minister Hugo Martinez has told Spanish news agency Efe he “expresses his solidarity” with Pope Benedict, and adds: “We understand that the decision has been difficult for him, but, as he said, it was a decision that had to take.”

  24. 1859:

    George Ratzinger also told Newsday: “He will not interfere in the business of his successor, where he’s needed he will make himself available, but he will not want to want to intervene in the affairs of his successor.”

  25. 1858:

    Georg Ratzinger went on: “When he got to the second half of his 80s he felt that his age was showing and that he was gradually losing the abilities he may have had, and that it takes to fulfil this office properly.”

  26. 1857:

    The brother of Pope Benedict, 89-year-old Georg Ratzinger, has been speaking to BBC World Service Newsday. Asked if Benedict wanted to make any particular point by resigning, he said: “No, he didn’t. It’s simply the case that people didn’t use to become as old as they do today. He reached an age that only very few of his predecessors had reached.”

  27. 1847:

    The Catholic World Youth Day, due to be held in Rio de Janeiro in July, will go ahead despite the resignation of Pope Benedict. The Brazilian city’s Archbishop, Orani Tempesta, confirmed the event was still on and that the pontiff’s successor will attend, BBC Mundo reports.

  28. 1847:

    During the forthcoming Conclave, there will be 117 cardinals who are younger than 80 and thereby eligible to vote.

  29. 1846:

    Cardinal Mahoney paid tribute to Pope Benedict in his blog, saying he was an “extraordinary successor to St. Peter these past eight years, and I thank God for the graces and blessings which have come to the Church and to the world during his pontificate”.

  30. 1845:

    Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony is to travel to Rome to vote in the forthcoming Conclave, despite being banned from many Church duties over his past handlings of clergy paedophile cases.

  31. 1837:

    News agency AFP reports that Nicaraguan priest Ernesto Cardenal, a supporter of liberation theology, is “very happy” about Pope Benedict’s resignation. During the 1980s, the then Joseph Ratzinger spearheaded the Church’s campaign against the movement, a potent blend of Catholicism and Marxism popular in Latin America. Father Cardenal is an outspoken critic of the pontiff’s ministry, having called it a “step backward” for the Church.

  32. AJ in Limerick, Ireland

    emails: A great intellectual man who never seemed too keen on being Pope in the first place. Undoubtedly he made mistakes, but I believe that he always meant well. His decision made me respect him even more.

  33. St Peter's Square, Vatican

    The lights of the Vatican shine on St Peter’s Square at the end of a momentous day for the Roman Catholic Church.

  34. 1823:

    More from David Willey: The midnight Easter vigil mass at the Vatican on 30 March, perhaps the most important of the year, had been rescheduled as early as 20:30 in order to allow the Pope to retire for the night well before midnight, he notes.

  35. 1822: David Willey BBC News, Rome

    reports there were some obvious signs of impending change at the Vatican. For the first time in decades no papal travel plans had been announced for 2013. Recent visitors to the Vatican, both VIPs and ordinary pilgrims, had noticed the pontiff’s weakened voice, the fact that he sometimes used a cane to walk, and a cutting back of all his public engagements.

  36. 1817:

    Italy’s Ansa news agency is congratulating itself for having scooped the world on news of Pope Benedict’s resignation. Its Vatican correspondent Giovanna Chirri was listening in the Vatican press room as Pope Benedict made a statement in Latin to cardinals, and she quickly realised the huge importance of what she was hearing. She immediately sought confirmation and put out an urgent news flash, which was instantly picked up by major news organisations and flashed round the world.

  37. Jeremy in Surrey

    emails: Sounds like a logical decision based on health. Perhaps it’s time to review the rules and set a maximum age for a Pope at which they have to stand down. A younger Pope would mean someone perhaps a little closer to the people and with more of an understanding of what goes on in the world.

  38. 1815: Bethany Bell BBC News

    There has been some reaction from the Pope’s birthplace, the Bavarian town Marktl am Inn. The Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper said one woman, Susanne Barthel, put a lilac orchid by the papal candle in the local church. “I am very sad,” she said.

  39. 1805:

    Meanwhile, speculation is rife about who the next pope will be. For the Spectator’s Fraser Nelson, “the first papal resignation since 1415 will throw the world’s attention on Nigeria’s Cardinal Francis Arinze, who is the bookies’ favourite to succeed Benedict XVI”. Read more here.

  40. 1801:

    “This is a Pope whose doctrinaire conservatism has had an ossifying effect; this is a moment when we will see what other voices there might be left in the Church,” writes Amy Davidson in the New Yorker.

  41. Patricia in Plymouth, USA

    emails: As a former Catholic, I believe both Pope Benedict and his predecessor have failed to minister to the young and to women. All the talk of a pope from Africa, Latin America or Asia miss the point – those cardinals were elevated by Benedict, and will be every bit as conservative, if not more so.

  42. 1757:

    World Have Your Say on the BBC World Service will be talking to a group of London-based Catholic students from all over the world about the Pope’s resignation and who they would like to see as his successor. Listen here at 18:00 GMT.

  43. David in Leicester

    emails: No matter how you look at it, this is a courageous decision to recognise his own limitations and want someone more capable of carrying out his role. I only wish many politicians would show the same integrity.

  44. 1754:

    Religious and political leaders in Ireland and Northern Ireland have been paying tribute to Pope Benedict XVI. Catch up with the latest reaction here.

  45. Phil in Brisbane, Australia

    emails: I’m just watching the stunned outpourings of amazement, sadness and great curiosity at the news of the Pope’s retirement from the people of Africa. I had no idea just how strong the Catholic faith is across much of Africa.

  46. 1752:
    Cross carried in Rome

    Here is a picture of that cross we mentioned in Alan Johnston’s report. Pilgrims from the Youth Group of San Lorenzo carried it across St Peter’s Square to recite their daily rosary at the Vatican.

  47. 1751:

    Rome’s Zenit website has published some useful figures on the conclave – or meeting of the College of Cardinals – which will elect Benedict XVI’s successor.

  48. Nipa Shah

    tweets: I’m not Catholic & even I was jolted when I read that the #Pope is resigning! What a paradigm shift!!

  49. 1748:

    The BBC’s Alan Johnston reports from Rome, where a large cross has been carried to the Vatican. Watch the full report here.

  50. 1746:

    Meanwhile, Cardinal Sean Brady, Primate of All Ireland, says: “With typical humility, courage and love for the Church [the Pope] has clearly come to the view that the Lord now wants him to use his remaining physical and spiritual energies by serving the Church in prayer. I think this is a profound act of humility, a conscientious and responsible decision to hand over the ministry of the successor of St Peter in a time of great challenge for the Church and for faith in the modern world.”

  51. Wade in Cebu, Phillipines

    emails: Let’s not kid ourselves – he was a terrible Pope. His resignation is the first innovative and sensible thing he has done and will earn him some much needed respect. In any political or business organisation bar a totalitarian regime, he would have been kicked out and replaced long ago.

  52. 1744:

    Pope Benedict XVI made his announcement in Latin earlier on Monday, as the cardinals watched. For all reaction and information on his resignation, see our special report here.

  53. 1742:

    The resignation of Pope Benedict is a “great humanitarian gesture,” says the chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg – as quoted by the Frankfurter Allgemeine. Archbishop Zollitsch says: “We, the German bishops, are full of great respect and admiration for his decision.”

  54. 1741:

    Rising US Republican Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American Catholic, has thanked the Pope for his service: “Today Pope Benedict XVI displayed the qualities of an excellent leader and a true man of God by putting the interests of the Vatican and the Catholic Church over his own papacy… I wish him well in the future and, as a Catholic, I thank him for his service to God and the Church.”

  55. 1737:

    European media comments on the Pope’s dramatic resignation draw attention to the huge challenges that have tested his papacy, But there is also admiration for his bold, highly unusual decision to quit. Read our reaction page here. .

  56. Paddy Power, Irish bookmaker

    tweets: Next Pope betting: 5/2 Cardinal Ouellet, 3/1 Cardinal Arinze, 4/1 Cardinal Turkson

  57. Mike Killeen in Harlington, UK

    emails: In my mind, he will always be tainted with the suspicion of actively covering up those scandals. He lacked the leadership skills or the charisma I believe is a prerequisite of a modern-day Pope. He had nothing important or inspirational to say to to me and Lord help you if you were a woman, gay, or divorced.

  58. 1722:

    More from US President Barack Obama: “The Church plays a critical role in the United States and the world, and I wish the best to those who will soon gather to choose His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI’s successor.”

  59. 1721:

    US President Barack Obama issues a statement saying: “On behalf of Americans everywhere, Michelle and I wish to extend our appreciation and prayers to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. Michelle and I warmly remember our meeting with the Holy Father in 2009, and I have appreciated our work together over these last four years.”

  60. 1718:

    The Archbishop of Southwark, the Most Reverend Peter Smith, says he was “totally shocked” to hear of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation. Speaking to BBC News he describes the Pope as courageous, wise and humble in his decision. “I think he’s recognised the reality… he cannot do all he would want to do as Pope and the chief shepherd of the Church on Earth.”

  61. 1717:

    A resident of Accra in Ghana has told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme how he found out about the papal resignation: “I just heard [the news] this morning. I was in my car. My wife went to the bank, so she heard it… in the bank. I had never heard anything about his ill health, so I was very shocked and surprised. It’s a good development if he thinks he cannot carry on and he feels he wants to take leave.”

    But another Accra resident says the Pope should have stayed on: “The Pope must die on the throne; you don’t resign due to ill health… You don’t give up.”

  62. “The evolution of Pope Benedict XVI’s responses to allegations of child abuse by members of the Catholic clergy reflect a growing public awareness of the issue. But has he gone far enough?” – asks Channel 4 News.

  63. 1715:

    The BBC’s Alan Johnston reports that the sense of surprise is absolutely complete in Rome.

  64. For a transatlantic perspective on today’s news,read Susannah Cullinane’s article, “Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation explained,” for CNN.

  65. 1715:

    Don’t miss BBC Radio 4’s PM programme – now live on air. PM is hearing reaction to the Pope’s resignation from the Catholic community around the world, as well as speaking live to the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales.

  66. BBC News website reader

    emails: I am a lapsed Protestant, but lived for five years in a village where Joseph Ratzinger had sometimes conducted services and I share my former neighbours’ high regard for his personal and priestly qualities.

  67. 1711:

    Dr John Pollard, historian at Cambridge University, tells the BBC World Service he was sure that the Vatican could cope with the Pope’s resignation – “even if a very large number of people in the Vatican must still be slightly reeling from the shock”.

  68. 1653:

    For a global perspective on Pope Benedict’s resignation, listen back to a special edition ofNewshour on the BBC World Service.

  69. 1649:

    The head of the French Catholic Church, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, says France is losing a dear friend but denies suggestions of a crisis at the Vatican. “I don’t see how a resignation, rather than a death would give rise to a crisis. To me, it doesn’t appear to be either a sudden or unforeseen event.”

  70. 1643:

    Speaking in the House of Commons, British Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Pope Benedict has worked tirelessly to strengthen Britain’s relations with the Holy See. He will be missed as a spiritual leader to millions.” Watch the full video here.

  71. 1638:

    Argentine paper La Nacion quotes Argentine Ambassador to the Vatican, Juan Pablo Cafiero, as saying he was “surprised” by the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. But he adds: “We must respect it.”

  72. 1636:

    Pope Benedict XVI signalled his intention to step aside to Italy’s President Giorgio Napolitano a week ago, reports Italy’s Ansa news agency. During their last meeting on 4 February, the president said “it was clear that (the Pope) was tired and aware of fatigue which was hard to bear”.

  73. Gwendolyn Wellmann

    tweets: Let’s hope the next pope is younger and from a Third World country.

  74. 1631:

    A large slogan on the website of Argentine daily Clarin reads: “This is the news that shocked the world!”

  75. 1630:

    The Archbishop of Jos, the Most Reverend Ignatius Kaigama, in Nigeria, which has one of the biggest Catholic communities in Africa, has spoken to BBC Hausa about the resignation: “It came to us with shock and surprise, because there was no papal resignation for so many years. It is not strange for a pope to resign, but we never expected Pope Benedict’s resignation – though we know he is very old. But his resignation is shocking to all of us.”

  76. 1626:

    “It’s probably the most innovative thing he’s done as Pope,” writes Channel 4’s Jon Snow in his blog. “Old age and frailty are the public explanation, and at 85, who’s to say there may not be a considerable element of truth in it.”

  77. Patrick Rushe in Dundalk, Ireland

    emails: While stunned by the suddenness of this news, I am also thrilled that Pope Benedict has ‘shocked’ us all at a time when in some ways, the Church’s influence in the modern world was being taken for granted. This historic event will be a huge opportunity for the Church to re-engage with the world.

  78. 1624:

    The headline from Canada’s National Post newspaper states that a Canadian is a “favourite to take over”. It says: “Among those expected to be in the running is Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Canadian head of the Vatican’s office for bishops, whose swift rise through the Church’s ranks have made him, for some, a favourite for the position.”

  79. 1620:

    USA Today calls for the next Pope to be “smart, creative, and politically adept”. Read more by Cathy Lynn Grossman here.

  80. 1619:

    Spain’s National Radio has canvassed opinions at the gates of the Almudena Cathedral in Madrid, and in the streets of Toledo. The majority of people who were asked said the resignation came as a surprise to them, but they expressed their “understanding” for the Pope’s decision.

  81. 1616:

    The news that the Pope is to retire at the end of this month has been greeted with shock by Catholics in Scotland. Watch this report by BBC Scotland’s Laura Bicker from St Andrew’s Cathedral in Glasgow.

  82. Carl Holden in Wrexham

    emails: Surely the new Pope must come from Africa or South America, for no other reason than these are the areas in the world where the Catholic Church is still considered relevant and still wields power.

  83. 1614:

    The Vatican says it expects a new Pope to be elected before Easter. “Africans and Latin Americans [are] among early contenders… as the papacy could head out of Europe for the first time in the modern era,” reports the Daily Telegraph.

  84. 1613:

    Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop Emeritus of Westminster, tells the BBC he was shocked but not surprised by the Pope’s decision. Watch his reaction here.

  85. 1610:

    How controversial was the Pope’s tenure? Benedict XVI was “a conservative whose papacy was dogged by scandal,” writes Reuters’ Philip Pullella.

  86. 1609:

    Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz is quoted on the popular Polish news and entertainment website as saying: “I am moved by and greatly respect the decision by Benedict XVI. I understand the reasons he provided. Benedict XVI ran the Church with great care and wisdom, which sprang from his great intellectual abilities.”

  87. 1607:

    Mr Monti goes on: “I will treasure the touching memory of the personal and close dialogue with which the Holy Father has consented to accompany my commitment with the government. Today, I am close to him and I humbly trust that this relationship, which has enriched me on an intellectual and moral level, will continue hereafter.”

  88. 1606:

    The Italian government website published the following statement from Prime Minister Mario Monti: “I deeply respect the decision of Pope Benedict XVI, immense and unexpected as it is. I am sure that this decision has been inspired by the will to serve the Church to the end and to make sure that it will be guided steadfastly in the future as well.”

  89. 1605:

    Mamadu Alieu Jalloh in Sierra Leone writes on BBC Africa’s Facebook page: “Pope Benedict, you are honest and may God grant you a good health for the rest of your life. I hope and pray that the next pope is chosen from Africa because all races are equal… according to the Catholic doctrine.”

  90. The Pope leaves the meeting where he announced his resignation

    Here’s another image of the Pope, taken on Monday as he left the meeting of cardinals where he announced his resignation.

  91. Writer Musa Okwonga

    tweets: A black #Pope, given Africa’s growing prominence on the world stage, would be a smart strategic step. It would imply a sense of renewal.

  92. 1556:

    Catholics outside Westminster Cathedral in London have been giving the BBC their reactionto the Pope’s resignation.

  93. 1556:

    The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI: Is it health? Or politics? Or both? asks Time Magazine.

  94. Anshul in Toronto, Canada

    emails: : I don’t understand what is ‘brave’ about the Pope stepping down. Being Pope should be an honour, and something that a candidate should be beyond happy to do until the day he dies. This is the epitome of what he has worked his life to become. It’s the greatest distinction possible for a man in his realm, and rather than distinguish the position he has, he steps down. Now, other questions must be asked of his motives.

  95. 1553:

    So what will the Pope’s legacy be? Pope Benedict XVI will be remembered as a man who did not fulfil all the dread warnings of turning the clock back. He did not turn out to be the out-and-out reactionary that he was predicted to be, writes the BBC’s Mark Dowd.

  96. 1551:

    Mark Thompson in CNN Money has written about the Pope’s financial achievements: “Pope Benedict made cleaning up the Vatican’s reputation for shady money one of his priorities, beefing up the city-state’s laws and hiring a top Swiss financial crime fighter to raise standards to international levels,” but he “fell short in cleaning up finances”.

  97. Dan Shaw in Grantham

    emails: A lot of people don’t seem to understand quite why the Church has a habit of choosing older Popes. Obviously there is the fact that it takes an awfully long time to reach the top of the ladder, but also there was a widespread feeling in the Church after the death of John Paul II that his reign had been rather lengthy. The Church, ancient as it is, does not like change or power to be in the hands of one Pope for too long. Choosing an older candidate is the best insurance policy that they have against this.

  98. 1549:

    German President Joachim Gauck has paid “enormous respect” to the Pope for his resignation, as quoted by Frankfurter Allgemeine: “The fact that a German succeeded John Paul II was of historic importance for our country,” says Mr Gauck. “His faith, his wisdom and human modesty had a deep impression on me.”

  99. 1548:

    Cardinal Turkson said from the Vatican: “People are free to speculate and people are free to make their own judgements. I suppose if it comes to looking for leadership, then I think the thing we should be doing is rather pray to God, the leader and owner of this Church, to give a leader who is fit to lead this group at this point in time and in history.”

  100. 1547:

    Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, who is being touted as a possible successor to Pope Benedict, has told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme he would rather people trust in God to choose the best leader for the Roman Catholic Church.

  101. 1546:
  102. Tony Webster in Bridgetown, Barbados

    emails: [The] successor absolutely must reform the Roman Catholic Church in rigorous and roots-to-branches manner, to ensure the very survival and relevance of the Church. I am not a Catholic, but still feel strongly that the new Pope must come from outside of Europe and reflect a statement of sweeping change ahead.

  103. 1541:
    George Stack

    Archbishop Stack goes on: “I ask people of faith both within the Catholic Church and outside it to keep Pope Benedict in their prayers. Although physical frailty has caused him to make this decision, his spiritual strength continues to witness to his faith and in the Lord Jesus whom he has served so faithfully throughout his life. He will continue to serve the Church through the sacrifice of his prayers.”

  104. 1540:

    The Archbishop of Cardiff, the Most Reverend George Stack, has reacted to the news: “I share the surprise of people all over the world at the news of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI from the Petrine Office. I am sure that many will recognise it to be a decision of great courage and humility, made with characteristic clarity of mind and action.”

  105. 1539:

    But as well as shock, many people are also raising the possibility that the next pontiff might be Asian – perhaps even the Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle.

  106. 1539: Kate McGeown BBC News, Philippines

    reports: In the Philippines – one of the few predominantly Catholic countries in Asia – the announcement has completely shocked people. More than 85% of the population is Catholic, and the Church is extremely powerful here. The presidential palace has issued a statement saying that Pope Benedict’s decision is “in keeping with the humility and pastoral approach he has placed at the core of his service as Pope”.

  107. Paula in London

    emails: I just wish that the Catholic Church would learn and just make the effort in recruiting a much younger individual to take over. We have so many cardinals who could quite easily step in – Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor is a prime example. He is a man with great devotion and understanding.

  108. 1536:

    Pope Benedict is considered a leading theologian and has been praised for his extensive writing, says the Wall Street Journal. But he “has also been controversial”. WSJ’s Stacy Meichtry assesses the pontiff’s eight-year papacy in a short video report here.

  109. 1534:

    When asked if he would be a potential candidate for Pope, Cardinal Schoenborn refused to be drawn. He said: “My heart is in Vienna and my heart is in Austria, but naturally also with the whole Church.”

  110. 1533: Bethany Bell BBC News

    reports: Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn of Austria – regarded as a possible successor to the Pope – says he was deeply moved and surprised by the resignation. He told Austrian television that the Pope had appeared mentally fit and fresh when they met last Thursday. He said the step was one which warranted the highest respect.

  111. 1531:

    The Guardian newspaper has looked at five key issues facing the Catholic Church, in an article entitled the “next Pope’s in-tray”.

  112. 1528:
    Timothy Dolan

    Archbishop Dolan goes on: “I would have to say my affection for and my admiration for Pope Benedict XVI has skyrocketed – it was already high… I would presume – I don’t have any insider information – but I would presume that his esteem for the office, as the successor of St Peter and the chief pastor of the Church Universal… is so high that in all humility he simply said, ‘I can’t do it anymore’.”

  113. 1528:

    The New York Archbishop, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, is one of the many high-profile figures to be shocked by the Pope’s announcement. Speaking in New York he says: “I’m not kidding, I was very startled and I don’t know what to say. I myself am waiting for information, for instructions, as to what we would do now as the College of Cardinals.”

  114. 1526:
    The Pope makes his announcement

    The first photo of the Pope making his unexpected announcement has been issued. It was taken by Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, and shows the Pope sitting on his throne as he addresses cardinals.

  115. John in London

    emails: I feel that a Church that does not move with the times sinks under the tide of ambiguity. This Pope, like so many before him, has stuck to outdated stances on major issues. I just hope that the new pope starts to live in the present day.

  116. Vatican Spokesman Federico Lombardi

    Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi earlier spoke at a news conference. He says that, with age, the Pope feels “he has less strength physically and also mentally to cope with the challenges in the world of today for the government of the Universal Church”.

  117. 1516:

    The UK’s Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, has wished the Pope good health and blessings: “I was honoured to welcome Pope Benedict XVI to Britain on behalf of non-Christian faiths in 2010 and spend time with him during a visit to the Vatican in 2011. I saw him to be a man of gentleness, of quiet and of calm, a deeply thoughtful and compassionate individual who carried with him an aura of grace and wisdom.”

  118. Tom in Southampton

    emails: Unfortunately, I believe that this decision devalues the papacy. I can fully understand the feelings of a frail old man, however, he is purported to be the successor of St Peter and I don’t think that resignation is an option. Does it not also weaken the authority of the next Pope?

  119. 1509:

    Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch, head of the Vatican department for Christian unity, told the Tagesanzeiger daily in Zurich, that the Church’s future was not in Europe. “It would be good if there were candidates from Africa or South America at the next conclave,” he said.

  120. 1508:

    The resignation came on a special day for Colombian Catholics, reports BBC Colombia correspondent Arturo Wallace. One of the pontiff’s last official acts was to set the date for the canonisation of the first Colombian saint, Maria Laura de Jesus Montoya Upegui. Mother Laura, as she is known in Colombia, will be canonised on 12 May.

  121. 1500:

    Senior Vatican officials recently hinted that the Pope’s successor could be from Latin America, Reuters reports. “I know a lot of bishops and cardinals from Latin America who could take responsibility for the universal Church,” said Archbishop Gerhard Mueller, who now holds the Pope’s old post as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

  122. Michelle Therese in Orkney

    emails: I was decidedly startled by the news that our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, has resigned. I never met the Pope in person, but in 2007 I wrote the Holy Father a letter requesting his prayers and asking him for a blessed holy medal. I received a lovely reply from a Papal secretary and the Pope, to my delight, had sent along with the letter a lovely blessed crucifix, which now hangs from my Rosary.

  123. 1459:

    Former Catholic nun Lavinia Byrne told BBC World Service that one of the tasks of the new pope should be “to take a big broom to the Vatican” and also “to set up mechanisms whereby national Churches, local Churches share the responsibility for running the Church at large”.

  124. Jolanta Wisniewska in Reading

    emails: I deeply admire Pope Benedict XVI’s courage. Despite his old age, he has shown wonderful understanding of the challenges of today’s world. He said his ministry can be carried out not only by work but also by prayer and suffering, but he admits that physical and mental strength is necessary to lead the Church today. What a realistic attitude!

  125. 1456:

    Brazilian auxiliary Archbishop of Aparecida Monsignor Darci Nicioli said: “We accept this decision with pain in our heart, but we understand and accept the wishes of the Holy Father.”

  126. 1456:

    Five Brazilian Cardinals are said to be eligible for the papacy, among them Cardinal Odilo Scherer, Archbishop of Sao Paulo, who is currently on a visit to Rome, and Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz who is based in the Vatican, the BBC’s Julia Carneiro reports.

  127. 1449:

    Pope Benedict XVI will not take part in the conclave for the election of his successor, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi has said.

  128. 1448:

    Mr Ivereigh continued: “I think something happened today which is unprecedented and which will change the papacy from now on…. I think what Pope Benedict has done is saying that age is fine but infirmity is not – the demands of the office are so great that you need somebody who has that capability.”

  129. 1446:

    UK Catholic commentator Austen Ivereigh has told the BBC World Service: “What’s obvious is that this Pope lived through the last papacy and saw a lot of the inertia that resulted from John Paul II’s long illness and I think he came to the view that that shouldn’t be repeated.”

  130. 1443:

    The Rio archbishop said under canon law the Pope was entitled to resign. He also said he expected the new Pope to come to Rio for the celebrations, our correspondent adds.

  131. 1442:

    The Pope has previously spoken of a successor, the BBC’s Julia Carneiro reports from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had indicated privately that “either he or his successor” would come to the World Youth Day celebrations in Rio de Janeiro in July, Rio Archbishop Orani Joao Tempesta said.

  132. Ursula Bayer in Singapore

    emails: I greatly admire Pope Benedict XVI for his decision. It certainly takes immense courage and humility to acknowledge one’s limitations and to act accordingly. Many people say that he has never been able to step out of the shadow of his predecessor. Only history will show that he was a great Pope as well.

  133. 1436:

    Whoever replaces Benedict XVI as Pope will have to face a Latin American Catholic Church in crisis, says the BBC’s Juan Carlos Perez Salazar. Numbers have been plummeting in Brazil – the country with the largest Roman Catholic population in the world – and in Central America, where evangelical churches have made big inroads in the last two decades, our correspondent says.

  134. Mark Morris in Glasgow

    emails: While fully understanding the limitations and frailty of our condition, I fear that the Holy Father has done us no favours by his actions today. With our world badly in need of living examples of heroic virtue, we have witnessed today resignation instead of constancy and perseverance.

  135. 1430: Bethany Bell BBC News

    reports: The Catholic reform group We are Church has told the BBC it welcomes the Pope’s decision, saying that he has apparently realised that the world has become more complex and that he no longer has enough strength to deal with the position. The Roman Catholic Church needs a Pope who doesn’t decide everything himself, but who delegates responsibility, the group said.

  136. 1428: Peter Biles BBC World Affairs Correspondent

    reports that the Archbishop of Pretoria, the Most Reverend William Slattery, said there was a sense of gratitude for the Pope’s leadership over the past seven years, but that “the Church goes on”. He said there was admiration for Pope Benedict’s courage in taking the decision to resign.

  137. 1424:

    The BBC’s religious affairs correspondent Robert Piggott looks at the Pope Benedict XVI’s eventful life.

  138. Elvis in Maryland, USA

    emails: As a young Catholic, I am shocked by the news of the Pope’s decision to resign. As leader of the Catholic Church it is his duty to see his position through until his last days. Although I don’t agree with the decision a hundred percent, I do respect the decision he has made. No one knows him better than himself and if he feels that he is no longer able to fulfil his duties, it is best to appoint a more able successor.

  139. 1412:

    Christian leaders in the UK have paid tribute to Pope Benedict XVI. Cardinal Keith O’Brien, leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, said he was “saddened” by the Pope’s resignation.

  140. Betty, Ghana

    texts: I think the Pope’s resignation is an honourable thing. How many leaders in Africa will acknowledge their incapacity, be it physical or mental, and humbly resign from their various positions? The Pope has set a good example worthy of emulation to a lot of people particularly Africans.

  141. 1410:

    German theology professor Max Seckler, a close friend and former colleague of Pope Benedict, has welcomed the news of his resignation. “He suffered a lot under certain things that were part of his role. It is hard to imagine what intrigues he had to deal with in Rome. It burdened him because he is a theologian and noble person,” he told German news agency dpa.

  142. Robbi in Belfast

    emails: Unlike the celebrity/media-savvy Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict was a fantastic academic and once again opened the Church, even if only slightly, to music and the arts. I wish him great happiness and I hope he finds peace in his future contemplation and prayer and rest. A fantastic man, who sadly did not hold the views of the younger generations.

  143. J Newman in Reading

    emails: From a liberal Catholic – good riddance to a backward-looking man, with his questionable past and blatant lack of remorse with regards to the child abuse scandal. I hope a young, trustworthy and progressive man is elected this time.

  144. 1402:

    Le Xuan Tuyen in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, writes on BBC Vietnamese‘s Facebook page: “Most popes are old when taking office and this means they already have many illnesses; why did he not refuse to take the role from the beginning?”

  145. 1401:
    TV reporters at St Peter's Square

    Television crews have descended on St Peter’s Square to report on events from the Vatican.

  146. Nicholas Wogden in Barnstaple

    emails: I went to see the Pope during his trip to Britain. He was truly an inspiration to me and many others that I know. Before his visit, I wasn’t overly keen about sharing my faith as it had a bit of a sigma attached to it. However, after that event I was fully proud of being a Catholic. This is a sad day for the Catholic faith.

  147. Kathryn McNamara, Philadelphia, USA

    emails: I’m thrilled to hear that Pope Benedict is retiring. As a young and progressive Catholic woman, I’ve struggled to maintain my place in a Church that doesn’t seem to want me. Maybe we’ll get a new Pope who will properly address the sexual abuse scandal, and not excommunicate priests who call for the ordination of women, and actually take a rational stance on birth control.

  148. 1356:

    Corriere Della Sera website reports there was bewilderment and incredulity among the many visitors to Saint Peter’s Square in Rome as the news emerged, with both native Romans and foreign tourists asking: “Is it true?”, “But why?”, “Is he ill?”

  149. 1350:

    UK Labour Party leader Ed Miliband has paid tribute to the Pope: “Many people will remember his historic visit to the UK in 2010 – which was a very special moment for many, especially Catholics, across the country. His decision to stand down is a brave one and we know he will not have reached it lightly.”

  150. Jon in Winchester

    emails: Considering his reign has been filled with one shocking revelation after another it’s inconceivable that this isn’t somehow linked with another scandal that will hopefully come to light very soon.

  151. Irene in Nairobi, Kenya

    emails: It is shocking news as Catholic youths the world over were looking forward to meeting Pope Benedict in Brazil later this year. I trust that the Pope has come to the decision after much thought and prayer.

  152. 1345:

    The Archbishop of Glasgow, the Most Reverend Philip Tartaglia, tells a congregation at St Andrew’s Cathedral in the city that the resignation of Pope Benedict has left him almost lost for words. He says Pope Benedict would be remembered as “a Pope of surprises” and “a latter day Father of the Church”. He adds: “I’ll miss him.”

  153. 1343:

    Sandra Capaccioni, a student from Ushuaia, Argentina, writes on BBC Mundo’s Facebook page: “His resignation is surprising, but on the other hand I think it’s [the right thing to do] if he feels he cannot carry on with his apostolate in the way that it is needed. It is good that he has the humility to resign and give way to another so that the Church can go on.”

  154. 1342:

    The resignation news came from the Vatican – the smallest independent state in the world. Read our Vatican overview for more information.

  155. Fergus Dufton

    tweets: The weirdest thing for me about the #pope’s resignation is that actually resigning is viewed as unusual whilst dying in the job is the norm

  156. 1338:

    Marek Zajac, editor-in-chief of the General Weekly, a Polish Roman Catholic magazine, says: “I imagine that this move will put great pressure on every successor. Any health problems will cause an avalanche of speculations and pressure. This is why for ages the popes avoided decisions like this one, though they were often discussed.”

  157. 1336:

    Many people have expressed shock at the surprise resignation. We have a full page ofreaction from across the world.

  158. Zamir Bridgman in London

    emails: Many of us see the Pope as a divine religious leader due to his closeness to God and we rarely stop and consider him as one of us, one with worries, aliments and unfortunately an expiration date. I, for one, see his resignation as a great act of bravery, to openly admit that due to his human condition he is unable to fulfil his divine position.

  159. 1333:

    Mrs Merkel adds, in a statement shown on German TV station NTV, that Pope Benedict XVI is and remains “one of the most significant religious thinkers of our time.”

  160. 1331:
    Angela Merkel

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel has praised the Pope’s role in encouraging dialogue with Churches and Jews and Muslims. She says his speech before the German Bundestag in 2011 was a high point. She adds: “The decision to step down deserves my greatest respect. Many will understand that even the Pope has to deal with the burden of age.”

  161. 1329:

    The pontiff says he is too old to continue at the age of 85. But as the BBC’s David Willey explains, there are historical precedents for a papal resignation. Have a look at our backgrounder onhow a pope can resign.

  162. 1327:

    The Vatican says the Pope’s resignation is to do with his health, not other difficulties. But the Roman Catholic Church has been badly shaken in recent years after revelations of abuse. Pope Benedict has expressed deep sorrow at the “unspeakable crimes”.

  163. Anrai McCarthy in Portaferry, Ireland

    tweets: Need a fresh approach. Young #pope please @BBC_HaveYourSay

  164. 1324:

    Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, quoted by La Repubblica website, says Pope Benedict’s decision to step down is an “act of great courage and great generosity” which merits great respect.

  165. Margaret in London

    emails: A man of great courage and dignity, a true servant of God. I will miss him very much. A true shock. God bless him.

  166. 1322:

    Monsignor Neville Joe, a senior Sri Lankan cleric who works in the Vatican, tells BBC Sinhala: “People are coming here, and they are wanting to know what is happening inside the Vatican. People are disturbed about the news. They are discussing who will become the next Pope, when are they going to have the conclave. It’s like lightning in the sky, this message today, because nobody was expecting this news.”

  167. 1321:

    Pope Benedict’s resignation has set in motion the centuries-old process of electing a new pope. Popes are chosen by the College of Cardinals – the Church’s most senior officials. The process involves a secret conclave, voting rituals, and smoke.

  168. 1318:

    The website of the Spanish daily newspaper, El Mundo, says Pope Benedict XVI will go down in history as “God’s sweeper” – the man who tried to resolve the “numerous problems of the Church that did so much harm to its image”.

  169. 1314:

    For a pictorial look at Pope Benedict’s life, you can view our gallery here.

  170. 1309: Afua Hirsch, West Africa correspondent for the Guardian

    tweets: #Ghana’s Cardinal Peter Turkson favourite to be the new #pope.

  171. Paul Langham in York

    emails: As a total non-believer I have to say that I have the deepest respect and admiration for this man and his extremely brave decision.

  172. 1305:

    Oleg Borovskikh from Komsomolsk-on-Amur, Russia, tells BBC Russian on the VKontakte social network: “It is a skill to choose the right time to leave.”

  173. 1305:

    BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme is now live on air, looking at the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.

  174. 1303:

    “We pray that God will bless him profoundly in retirement with health and peace of mind and heart, and we entrust to the Holy Spirit those who have a responsibility to elect his successor,” Archbishop Welby added.

  175. 1303:

    Archbishop Welby, who only officially took up his new role last week, said he gave thanks to God for Benedict’s life “utterly dedicated, in word and deed, in prayer and in costly service, to following Christ.”

  176. 1300:
    Justin Welby

    Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, the leader of the Anglican Communion, has just released a statement saying: “It was with a heavy heart, but complete understanding, that we learned this morning of Pope Benedict’s declaration of his decision to lay down the burden of ministry as Bishop of Rome, an office which he has held with great dignity, insight and courage.”

  177. 1257:

    Corriere Della Sera website quotes Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals, as saying Pope Benedict’s announcement came as a “bolt from the blue”.

  178. James Brinning in Cardiff

    tweets: Would like the Catholic Church to break tradition, and pick a black or female Pope. Would restore some people’s faith – not mine I’m afraid.

  179. 1251:

    For a bit more information about the Pope’s four-day visit to the UK in 2010, have a read of our special report.

  180. 1248:

    Germany’s Der Spiegel Magazine quotes Horst Seehofer, the governor of Bavaria, where the Pope was born, saying the decision is worthy of “great respect, even when I personally deeply regret it. With his charisma and his tireless work for the good of the Church, the Pope from Bavaria has inspired people all over the world”.

  181. 1247:

    Finally the Archbishop adds: “I ask people of faith to keep Pope Benedict in their prayers. We Catholics will do so, with great affection and the highest esteem for his ministry as our Holy Father remembering with joy his visit to the United Kingdom in 2010. Pray, too, for the Church and all the steps that must take place in the next weeks. We entrust ourselves to the loving providence of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”

  182. 1246:
    Vincent Nichols

    Vincent Nichols goes on: “Yet, on reflection, I am sure that many will recognise it to be a decision of great courage and characteristic clarity of mind and action. The Holy Father recognises the challenges facing the Church and that ‘strength of mind and body are necessary’ for his tasks of governing the Church and proclaiming the Gospel. I salute his courage and his decision.”

  183. 1245:

    We have a statement from the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, who is the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. He says the Pope’s announcement has “shocked and surprised everyone”.

  184. 1243:

    Ezio Mauro, editor-in-chief of Italian daily La Repubblica, says the news represents an “irruption of modernity” into the Vatican. It is unprecedented in the modern era for a pope to resign because of physical frailty, and for a new pope to be chosen and take office while his predecessor remains alive.

  185. 1241:BREAKING NEWS
    Mr Cameron goes on: “He has worked tirelessly to strengthen Britain’s relations with the Holy See. His visit to Britain in 2010 is remembered with great respect and affection. He will be missed as a spiritual leader to millions.”
  186. 1238:BREAKING NEWS
    Prime Minister David Cameron commenting on the Pope’s resignation says: “I send my best wishes to Pope Benedict following his announcement today. He has worked tirelessly to strengthen Britain’s relations with the Holy See.”
  187. Riley Kernaghan in Brisbane, Australia

    tweets: New Archbishop of Canterbury has only been a priest for 20 or so yrs. Will the next #pope also be young or an outsider? @BBC_HaveYourSay

  188. 1231:

    “There is no such thing as a Pope on retirement,” the Polish website quoted John Paul II as saying back in 1994 when he was admitted to hospital with a health problem.

  189. 1230:

    Polish weekly Polityka’s website, seen by BBC Monitoring, notes that Benedict’s predecessor, Pope John Paul II, had always rejected the possibility of resigning, regardless of whatever happened to him during his tenure.

  190. 1229:

    This is a photo taken of Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican earlier on Monday. A spokesman says he took the decision to retire “aware of great problems the Church faces today”.

  191. 1225:

    Ladbrokes is the second bookmaker to make Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana the favourite to be the next Pope, with odds of 5/2.

  192. Charles Amuyunzu, Detroit, USA

    emails: I have never met the Pope but I am touched by the fact that he acknowledges the weakness of his body even when the soul is willing. It is a good lesson for all of us especially those in power to quit at the right time. The only question I have is why his predecessor went on for ever even when talking was a great task. Did that influence the current Pope in making this decision?

  193. 1220:

    “The Pope has been looking rather frail, his voice very, very weak… It’s not a total surprise… In a book published a couple of years ago… the Pope made it very clear that if he felt unable to carry on his job, he would resign,” David Willey reports from Rome.

  194. 1219:

    The BBC’s David Willey in Rome tells the BBC World Service that there had been speculation in recent months about the Pope’s health.

  195. 1218:

    The spokesman at the Vatican says the decision left aides “incredulous”.

  196. 1214:

    Damian Thompson, former editor of the Catholic Herald, says the Pope has made “a brave move” in deciding to leave his post. Listen to his interview with BBC News here.

  197. BBC Radio 2 presenter Jeremy Vine

    tweets: (1) Open Twitter account. (2) Get a bit too lively with the tweets. (3) Resign job. #Pope

  198. 1213:BREAKING NEWS
    Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi tells a news conference that “we should have a new Pope for Easter”.
  199. Jack in Paris, France

    emails: Being a Middle Eastern Christian I still remember the day of His Holiness’ lecture at Regensburg, on Faith and Reason. It caused a storm in the Muslim World but at the same time was a brave step to “face the realities” of a world at which religion is a major topic of conflict. May God bless him and his successor to the Apostolic See.

  200. 1210:

    “I think he deserves a lot of credit for advancing inter-religious links the world over between Judaism, Christianity and Islam,” Israel’s chief rabbi Yona Metzger says of Pope Benedict.

  201. 1209:

    Israel’s chief rabbi Yona Metzger says Israel and the Vatican have enjoyed the “best relations” under Pope Benedict’s leadership.

  202. Joe in Oxford

    emails: With Lent approaching soon, is this the most appropriate time to resign? Lent is about penance, suffering, commitment. I’m not sure this is well timed.

  203. 1208:

    Our correspondent says that a conclave will be set up at the Vatican to elect a new Pope. He says a vote could take place in just a few weeks.

  204. 1207:

    The BBC’s religious affairs correspondent Robert Piggott says it must have been an extremely lonely decision for the Pope to make on his own.

  205. 1204:

    Germany’s Der Spiegel news magazine reports that Georg Ratzinger, the Pope’s brother, had known “for months” of the resignation plans. He said that his brother wanted “more quiet” in his old age, Der Spiegel says.

  206. Tracy in Belgium

    emails: I think the Pope is doing the church a service in admitting his inability to continue doing its mission, given his state of frailty. Quite humble of him and difficult for him to accept that and resign.

  207. 1202:

    A Vatican spokesman says a new Pope is expected to be elected before the end of March, Reuters is reporting.

  208. 1202:

    A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the government had the “highest respect for the Holy Father, for what he has done, for his contributions over the course of his life to the Catholic Church”.

  209. 1201:

    Pope Benedict was born in Germany, and the German government said it was “moved and touched” by his resignation.

  210. Grant Erickson in Bellingham, USA

    emails: This is a very exciting event. There hasn’t been a Pope that resigned in centuries. The historical significance of this cannot be overemphasised. I am excited to see what happens over the next few weeks.

  211. 1157:
    pope benedict XVI

    Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation a little earlier during a meeting of the Vatican cardinals. The Pope’s closest aides say the news took them completely by surprise.

  212. 1156:BREAKING NEWS
    A Vatican spokesman confirms Pope Benedict XVI is not resigning because of any difficulties in the papacy.
  213. Anthony Costello in Rome, Italy

    emails: In Rome, there’s real shock. The Pope has been a real inspiration to people of my own generation, the youth of the Church. Thank you Benedict for being our rock.

  214. 1156:

    The Pope’s resignation has prompted much speculation about who will replace him. The bookmaker Paddy Power is now taking bets on who will be the next leader of the Catholic Church. It makes Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana an early favourite to replace the 85-year-old at 9/4.

  215. 1152:

    Italy’s La Stampa website reports Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, in a first reaction, says: “I’m greatly shaken by this unexpected news.” He tells reporters he can’t yet comment further.

  216. Malcolm Muyiinda in Kampala

    emails: I think this should serve as a reminder in the future not to elect an already “advanced” age cardinal to the papacy. We need a much younger cardinal to be elected to avoid such, in the future!

  217. 1147:

    The Pope has said he will also renounce the office of Bishop of Rome on 28 February, but he adds he will keep serving the church “through a life dedicated to prayer”.

  218. Clem Feeney in Fleet, UK

    tweets:@BBC_HaveYourSay #pope Given the hysteria and indignity of press coverage of John Paul II dying days this is a very sane decision.

  219. 1142:
    pope benedict XVI

    Our Rome correspondent also says everything will now be focused on managing this unprecedented transition. The Vatican will want to find a replacement as quickly as possible, he says.

  220. Roland Fleming, Giessen, Germany

    emails: A brave, selfless and noble decision by an outstanding Pope, shocking though it seems right now. In time this will be seen as a significant act by a great leader who cares deeply for the Catholic Church.

  221. 1141:

    The BBC’s Alan Johnston in Rome says the news has come “out of the blue”, and that there was no speculation about the move in recent days.

  222. William, Branchburg, USA

    texts: At 85, who should be surprised by a sitting Pope wanting to entrust the Holy See to someone more vital whom, unlike pontiffs who remain Pope until their deaths, may actually influence the choosing of his successor.

  223. 1139:

    Find out more about Pope Benedict’s life and work by reading our profile of him here.

  224. Mark in Tewkesbury

    emails: Sad news, despite all the criticism I think he is a spiritual man whose faith is an inspiration to many of us. Certainly a man of integrity.

  225. 1137:

    Pope Benedict XVI took the helm in 2005, as one of the fiercest storms that the Catholic Church has faced in decades – the scandal of child sex abuse by priests – was breaking.

  226. 1136:

    Catholic author and historian Michael Walsh says the pope suffered ill health as a cardinal, but he seemed to recover well enough to take on the job.

  227. Joe Crook in Poole, Dorset

    tweets: This reaction to the Pope’s apparent resignation is very interesting in an age where religion is supposedly no longer relevant.

  228. 1135:

    The 85-year-old pope also told a meeting of cardinals: “In order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.”

  229. 1134: Raju Varughese in Kuwait City

    emails: Very sad and surprised to note this. Maybe the Pope will have a valid reason for this, probably health reasons? May God Bless him.

  230. 1130:

    Vatican Radio, the broadcasting station of the Holy See, has released the full text of the Pope’s declaration.

  231. Sean in the USA

    emails: The world is shocked, and though I am not a Catholic, I feel large shock from the announcement. But I am happy knowing the fact that he has the mind to make a decision with an impact this large and that he believes this will be the best decision for the church as a whole.

  232. 1125:

    In his speech, Pope Benedict says: “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”

  233. 1121:

    Pope Benedict announced his decision in Latin, during a meeting of Vatican cardinals.

  234. 1120:

    Mr Thompson also tells the BBC it will be difficult to find someone of Benedict XVI’s calibre to replace him.

  235. 1119:

    Religious commentator Damian Thompson says the news is sad and Benedict XVI has been a great Pope.

  236. It’s worth noting that the exact reasons for Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation are not yet clear.

  237. Frederic in Belgium

    emails: My God I’m in shock. What a strange decision as normally a Pope dies in function. He should have a good reason, and may God help him in his way.

  238. Read our main news story on the pope’s resignation here.

  239. 1116:

    A Vatican official says he expects the period when the papacy is vacant to be “as brief as possible, Reuters reports.

  240. 1115:

    The Vatican says Pope Benedict’s resignation means the papacy will be vacant until a successor is chosen, Reuters news agency reports.

  241. Samuel Mullins in Australia

    tweets:Despite what you’ve heard, Pope Benedict has been excellent overall. But it’s been clear he’s getting old.

  242. Pope Benedict XVI on Christmas Day 2006

    Previously known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the piano-playing professor was looking forward to retirement when Pope John Paul II died in 2005. He has said he never wanted to be Pope.

  243. 1112:

    Benedict XVI was one of the oldest new popes in history when he was elected in 2005. He will be 86 years old in April.

  244. The pope says he is fully aware of the gravity of his decision.

  245. 1109:

    The Pope says his strength is no longer adequate to continue in office, in a statement reported by Reuters news agency.

  246. 1107:

    This is a surprise announcement, and makes him the first pope to resign in centuries.

  247. 1104:

    Vatican spokesman Frederico Lombardi has told the AFP news agency that he will step down at 20:00 on 28 February.

  248. 1105:

    Welcome to the BBC’s live coverage of the news that Pope Benedict XVI has announced his resignation.
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