World voices respect for Pope's surprise resignation
BERLIN (AFP) - The world's political and religious leaders expressed surprise but respect for Pope Benedict XVI's shock announcement on Monday of his historic resignation due to "incapacity" because of his age.
France and Germany reacted within minutes of the news that the 85-year-old Pontiff would step down as leader of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics on Feb 28 because age was preventing him from carrying out his duties.
Describing the decision as "eminently respectable", French President Francois Hollande said his country, where the vast majority are of Catholic heritage, "hails the Pope who took this decision".
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, herself the daughter of a pastor, said she had the "greatest respect" for the German-born pope's "difficult" decision.