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Respect and gratitude

· Reactions to the announcement of the resignation of the Papacy ·

Shimon Peres honours the depth of the great thinker, the sincerity of a great believer, the passion of a peacemaker

After the surprise – respect and thankfulness. Amidst the world-wide reactions which have followed in the wake of Benedict XVI's announcement to resign from the Papacy, respect for the Pontiff's decision and gratefulness for his work throughout these years emerge. From the first hours these have been the sentiments expressed in messages and communiqués, arriving from capitals such as Rome, Berlin, Paris and London – which we reported yesterday. Yet, as the hours pass, the homage shown to the Pope by world leaders has increased.

The United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon “expressed his appreciation for the profound commitment of Pope Benedict to inter-faith dialogue and to addressing such global challenges as the alleviation of poverty and hunger, as well as the promotion of human rights and peace”. In a memo, Ban Ki-moon further affirmed that, “[h]e hopes that the wisdom demonstrated during his Pontificate may stand as a legacy on which to build further dialogue and tolerance”.

“On behalf of Americans everywhere, Michelle and I wish to extend our appreciation and prayers to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI” said Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, in a brief statement, in which he stressed that “the Church plays a critical role in the United States and the world”.

The representatives of the European Union also expressed their esteem, respect, and gratitude. José Manuel Durão Barroso, the President of the Commission, stressed that he learned of the announcement of the resignation “with deep emotion”. In a memo President Durão Barroso honoured the Pope's “spirit of reconciliation which animated the reflection and action of the Holy Father in his indefatigable support for economic values, for peace and for human rights”.

From Madrid, King Juan Carlos also showed his gratitude for Benedict's work and efforts, highlighting the Pope's “special relationship” with Spain. A relation – the King underlined – “reflected in three memorable visits of Benedict XVI to our country”. King Juan Carlos also sent to Pope Benedict best wishes for this new personal stage and for his apostolate that will begin in March”.

Declarations of esteem and expressions of thankfulness for meeting the Pope even came from Latin America.

From the first moments, immediately after the news of Benedict's resignation spread, the Jewish world showed Benedict how much they deeply valued his great dedication to promoting interreligious dialogue. Yesterday Israel's President, Shimon Peres, united his voice with these, saying that he was “saddened by the decision of Pope Benedict XVI to step down”, whom he met several times and received in Israel in 2009. Israel's Head of State added, “Pope Benedict has the depth of a great thinker, the sincerity of a great believer, the passion of a peace maker, and the wisdom to relate to changes in history without changing his values”.

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