Vatican City — The Pope's announcement of his resignation stunned the world. On Monday February 11, 2013 news of the Pope's intention to resign at the end of February went viral on online media eliciting different responses mainly shock and surprise. It is a historical event as the last time a Pope resigned from office was over 600 years ago.
According to the Catholic News Agency, different people from all walks of life have expressed their shock including political leaders, religious leaders and the youth.
The Chargé d'Affaires at the Apostolic Nunciature in Kenya Monsignor Javier Herrera Corona in a Communiqué stated that in the Catholic Church regulation, the Pope's resignation need not be approved by anyone and the only validity required is the Pope's intention to resign which needs to be made freely.
Catholic Bishops from the United States of America voiced their sorrows of the Holy Father's resignation. They appreciated his eight years of leadership and service to the church. Cardinal Timothy M Dolan of New York, the President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops reflected on the Pope Benedict's service to the Church, commending the Holy Father for his work to proclaim the Gospel in all that he did.
Cardinal Dolan reflected on the Pope's visit to the US in 2008 and his plea for more equitable distribution of the world resources.
Cardinal Dolan referenced Pope Benedict's particular care for those facing persecution, poverty and pain, noting the Pope's visits to the Middle East, and Africa as well as the Pope's private meetings with victims of clerical abuse. He also cited that the Pope's words, actions and writings "moved and changed" people, urging them "to know and have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ."
A leading bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church said that Pope Benedict's papacy has been the occasion of a "positive dynamic" in relations between the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox. Pope Benedict is a great theologian and is well versed in the tradition of the Orthodox Church. After Pope Benedict's ascension to the See of Rome, relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church have acquired positive dynamic.
After the news of the Pope's resignation, Metropolitan Hilarion - the chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate's department for external church relations - noted that the office of the Roman Pontiff "presupposes active work" and "is not a ceremonial office." He praised the Pope's staunch opposition to the "dictatorship of relativism" and said that his "traditionalism and conservatism...are of credit for millions of Christians, both Catholic and non-Catholic, who seek to preserve traditional Christian spiritual and moral values."
"On behalf of Americans everywhere," said U.S. President Barack Obama, "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," the president said.
Vice President of U.S. Joe Biden, who is Catholic, voiced admiration for the Holy Father on Twitter, calling him "a man of great integrity" who is "looking out for what he believes is the best interest of our church."
And according to ZENIT, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales stated that the announcement "shocked and surprised everyone." However, Archbishop Nichols said that on reflection that the Holy Father's decision will be recognized as one of "great courage and characteristic clarity of mind and action."
"The Holy Father recognizes 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," Archbishop Nichols stated in a communiqué.
"I salute his courage and his decision."
British Prime Minister David Cameron sent his best wishes to the Holy Father following the announcement. "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," Cameron said.
"If the Pope himself, after thorough reflection, has come to the conclusion that he does not have the strength any more to carry out his duties, then [he] has my utmost respect," German chancellor Angela Merkel said.
"He is and remains one of the most significant religious thinkers of our time."
In a statement, Mario Monti, Prime Minister of Italy expressed his "profound respect for Pope Benedict's decision" which he regarded as "great and unexpected."
"I am sure that the Holy Father's decision has been inspired by the desire to serve the Church to the end and to ensure that in the future it may have a strong leadership."