Kenny pays tribute to Pope Benedict
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has spoken of Pope Benedict XVI's 'profound sense of duty' after news of the pontiff's resignation emerged today. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has extended his best wishes to Pope Benedict XVI after his announcement that he will shortly retire.
In a statement, the Taoiseach said the "momentous decision" was clearly one the pontiff had taken after careful consideration.
Meanwhile, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said he had heard of the pope’s decision to resign during a meeting today with Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers. He wished him well in his retirement, as did Ms Villiers. Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said the announcement had come as a surprise although there had been indications that the pope's health had been diminishing.
In the Taoiseach's statement, he said: "On behalf of the Government and people of Ireland, I would like to extend best wishes to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI following his declaration today that he intends to step down from his office."This is clearly a decision which the Holy Father has taken following careful consideration and deep prayer and reflection. It reflects his profound sense of duty to the Church, and also his deep appreciation of the unique pressures of spiritual leadership in the modern world. This is a historic day in the life of the Catholic Church and for the many millions of Catholics, both here in Ireland and around the world.
"Pope Benedict has given strong leadership and great service to the Church and her people for many decades. I know that all of their thoughts and prayers will be with the holy father at this time, and also with those who will shortly gather in conclave to choose his successor."
The Tánaiste said: "Like many in Ireland and Catholics in general, my concern is for the pope's health. I wish him well in his retirement. He is someone who has worked tirelessly as head of the Catholic Church.
"He has visited many areas of the world and worked for world peace. This was always at top of his agenda. We share that as a country - the desire to being peace to an world that is very troubled."
Dr Martin said it was "amazing" that the pope had continued with a full schedule until now.
“It's very clear that over the last months or so his physical health was declining and he had said on a number of occasions that if he felt that his physical and spiritual and mental health were a problem to him carrying out his duties, he would consider resigning.”
Dr Martin said people had tended to categorise Benedict "in one way or another".
"He was an extraordinarily rounded and a very different sort of man with many different aspects to his personality," he said.
The archbishop recalled meeting the pope during an Ad Limina visit to Rome. "I went out there with all my statistics ready telling him what was happening in Dublin."
And the pope had said: “I want you to tell me where are the points of contact between the Catholic Church in Ireland and those places where the future of Irish culture is being formed," Dr Martin recalled.