Pope Benedict resigns: 'A sign of great courage'

Yahoo! Italy’s News Editor Elisa Meroni and Yahoo! Germany's News Editor Johannes Patzig sum up the reaction to this morning's dramatic resignation

Yahoo! Italy News Editor Elisa MeroniYahoo! Italy’s News Editor Elisa Meroni gives a brief overview of the reaction to this morning's dramatic resignation

Surprise is the over-riding reaction in Italy as there were no signs that this might come about.

The most common word used by politicians giving their reaction to the announcement - made in Latin - is 'courage'.

President Giorgio Napolitano said the decision was 'a sign of great courage'.

Prime Minister Mario Monti refused to comment but added “this was totally unexpected, I cannot comment on such a big news without knowing the details”.

At first there were doubts whether the news was official. Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi revealed at a press conference that he had to provide the official translation - from Latin into Italian - so that everybody had a reliable text to work from for their articles and broadcasts.

The dramatic decision - against a backdrop of impending national elections - presents a number of difficulties for the Catholic Church in the run up to Easter.

For, as this is the first time this has happened since the Middle Ages, it raises the unusual prospect of there being a new Pope in place while another (former) Pope is still alive.

While the Pope is unlikely to interfere in his successor's work, he is acknowledged as a fine theologian with a following within the Church and his ideas will have to be considered.

Yahoo! Germany's Senior Editor Johannes Patzig gauges the reaction in the Pope's country of birth.Yahoo! Germany Senior Editor Johannes Patzig

The news of the Pope’s resignation has been met with great surprise and dismay in Germany.

German president Joachim Gauck was obviously very moved. He praised Benedict XVI, saying that for a historic decision like this, one needed to have "great courage and self-reflection... he has my extraordinary respect for both."

Mr Gauck had met the Pope in person a short while ago. "His faith, his wisdom and his human humbleness have impressed me deeply," he said.

Chancellor Angela Merkel also expressed her "highest respect" for Benedict and pointed out that "he is and remains one of the most important religious thinkers of our time."

In Bavaria, the home region of the Pope, politicians as well as citizens reacted emotionally to the news of his resignation. Edmund Stoiber, long-time prime minister of the state of Bavaria, called Benedict  "the greatest son of Bavaria”.

Georg Ratzinger, the 89-year-old brother of the Pope revealed more about Benedict's health and the reasons for his resignation. He told German news agency dpa: "His age weighs heavily on him".

According to Mr Ratzinger the Pope's personal doctor advised him not to go on transatlantic flights anymore. "My brother wishes to have more quiet in his old age," he said.