The spiritual head of the Anglican church said he is of "heavy heart" after learning of Pope Benedict's decision to resign on February 28th, due to advancing age.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, added in a statement that he fully sympathizes with Benedict the 16th's decision to leave the job, which he said the pontiff held with "great dignity, insight, and courage." Welby prayed that God would bless Benedict in his retirement, as well as those entrusted with the task of choosing his successor.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday she had the "greatest respect" for the German-born pope's difficult decision to resign. Mrs. Merkel said that Benedict is and remains one of the most significant religious thinkers of our time.
In Rome, where the pope announced his decision in a meeting at the Vatican with cardinals early Monday, some Italians voiced disbelief, while others said they understood his choice.
U.S. President Barack Obama said he and his wife, Michelle, extend their appreciation and prayers to the pope. In a statement, Mr. Obama notes that the church plays a critical role in the United States and the world and he wishes the best for those who will soon gather to choose the pope's successor.
The speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Republican John Boehner, said the pope's decision "displays extraordinary humility and love for the Church."
In South Africa, the Archbishop of Pretoria, William Slattery, said the continent's 170 million Catholics will remember the pope fondly. He said the news took his parish by surprise but that people understood the reasons he gave for moving on.
And in the Middle East, the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Yona Metzger, said that Pope Benedict improved ties between Judaism and Christianity which, he said, helped reduce anti-Semitism around the world. He said he hoped Benedict's successor would follow the same course of action.