President and politicians pay tribute


President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Enda Kenny paid tribute to Pope Benedict after his decision to retire.

In the hours after the news of the pontiff’s declaration emerged from the Vatican, Mr Higgins wrote to the pope to express good wishes to him.

“In his letter President Higgins acknowledged the scholarship and personal commitment that Pope Benedict brought to his leadership of the Roman Catholic community over the past eight years and wished him every peace and fulfilment in his retirement,” Áras an Uachtaráin said.

In a statement, Mr Kenny said he wished to extend best wishes to the pope on behalf of the Government and the people of Ireland.

“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. ”

Strong leadership

Mr Kenny, who was stridently critical two years ago of the Vatican’s response to the Cloyne report, said the pope had given strong leadership and great service to the church and its people for many decades.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said his immediate concern, like that of most Irish people and particularly Catholics, was for the pope’s health.

“I want to wish him well in his retirement. I also want to say that the pope was somebody who has worked tirelessly as leader of the Catholic Church.

“Last year alone he made a number of visits to Cuba and Lebanon. In particular, he has made a huge contribution to working for world peace. As a leader, he has put world peace at the top of his agenda.

“That is an issue that, as a country, we share with him, the desire to bring peace to a world that is in many places troubled,” Mr Gilmore added. “I want to wish him well in his retirement and wish him well with regard to his health.”

In the North, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said the pope’s resignation had taken everyone by surprise.

“The resignation of a pope is a most unusual occurrence and this clearly suggests that Pope Benedict’s has such very serious concern about his health that he feels he must resign,” Mr McGuinness said.

“I hope that the lifting of the onerous weight of the responsibilities of such an important world leader will ease the burden on him in his retirement.”

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin also expressed concern for the pope’s health, saying his decision must have been very difficult and one which required a great deal of courage.

Great shock

“I was extremely surprised to hear of the pope’s decision to resign this morning and I know it will come as a great shock to many Catholics in Ireland and across the world,” Mr Martin said.

“I want to extend my very best wishes to him as he focuses on his health and a new chapter in his life.”