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The world expresses surprise and respect

The news of Benedict XVI's renunciation from the pontificate has travelled quickly, monopolizing the news websites and live television broadcasts. It is catalyzing the focus of Twitter and the internet overall. While the event is being commented on everywhere in the globe, attestations of esteem and gratitude for the Pope’s work are pouring in from all the world’s capitals.

An “extraordinary act of courage and an extraordinary sense of responsibility”, remarked Giorgio Napolitano, President of the Italian Republic. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, called the Holy Father’s renunciation “stirring news which elicits my greatest respect”. She also recalled her meetings with Benedict XVI in Rome and in Germany, when he returned to the land of his birth in 2011. “The Pope’s Discourse to the German Parliament was unforgettable for me”, she said.

François Hollande, President of France, said that the Pope’s decision deserved “profound respect”. David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, sent his best wishes to the Holy Father following the announcement on Monday. The Prime Minister praised the Pope’s leadership and said that he had “worked tirelessly to strengthen Britain’s relations with the Holy See”.

Messages, statements and a expressions of good will and love for the Holy Father from members of the Church around the world have been pouring in ceaselessly. Despite the shock and sorrow of this moment, Bishops and Pastors are supporting Pope Benedict in what they call a courageous and selfless decision.

In the United Kingdom, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said: “Pope Benedict’s announcement today has shocked and surprised everyone.... 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. I salute his courage and his decision”.

Mons. Keith Newton, Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, uk, said: “Pope Benedict’s Pontificate has been an astonishing moment in the life of the Church; and members of the Ordinariate have particular reason to thank God for his pontificate, as he opened the way for Anglicans to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church through his Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus” .

In the United States, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York and President of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, released a statement saying: “Pope Benedict often cited the significance of eternal truths and he warned of a dictatorship of relativism”. He continued: “his resignation stands as an important moment in our lives as citizens of the world. Our experience impels us to thank God for the gift of Pope Benedict. Our hope impels us to pray that the College of Cardinals under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit choose a worthy successor to meet the challenges present in today’s world”.

His Grace Justin Selby, Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of the Anglican Communion, explained that 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”. The Primate of the Anglican Communion thanked God for Benedict XVI's “priestly life utterly dedicated, in word and deed, in prayer and in costly service, to following Christ”.

The Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow recalled the “positive dynamic” that Benedict XVI brought to ecumenical relations; he expressed the hope that this dynamic would continue with his Successor. Bishop Angelos, spokesman for the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt, addressed esteem and respect to Benedict XVI. He said that “the Pope took on an important role for extending peace and renouncing violence,” and stressed his “clear, wise and profound vision”.

In addition, Yona Metzger, Chief Rabbi of Israel, praised the Pope for everything that he has given to the efforts of interreligious dialogue. He was quoted as saying: “During his period there were the best relations ever between the church and the chief rabbinate and we hope that this trend will continue... I think he deserves a lot of credit for advancing inter-religious links the world over between Judaism, Christianity and Islam”. Renzo Gategna, President of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, expressed closeness and respect for this “anguishing and courageous decision”. Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni of Rome also expressed his deep respect.

Izzedin Elzir, President of the Union of Islamic Communities of Italy, said that Pope Benedict XVI made a courageous decision which calls for respect. The Grand Imam of Al Azhar — the most prestigious Islamic University — expressed “shock” upon hearing the news. And the President of Muhammadiyah (the largest Muslim organization in Indonesia), Din Syamsuddin, affirmed that the Pope’s commitment to dialogue “is a proposal that we must accept and strengthen in the future”.

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Nov. 15, 2019

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