Taoiseach Enda Kenny and President Michael D Higgins have paid tribute to Pope Benedict XVI on his retirement.
The Taoiseach said the pontiff's decision to leave his role at the head of the Catholic Church made it an historic day.
"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," he said.
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."
The Taoiseach said the pope has given strong leadership and great service to the Church.
Benedict, 85, will leave on February 28 after nearly eight years in
office. He is the first pontiff to resign in nearly 600 years and the
decision sets the stage for a conclave to elect a new pope before the
end of March.
Mr Higgins said he had written to the pope expressing his good wishes on his decision to retire.
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," the president's office said in a
The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII, who
stepped down in 1415 in a deal to end the Great Western Schism among
competing papal claimants.
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore
said the pope had put world peace at the top of his agenda and praised
his numerous overseas visits, adding: "Like most people in the country
and particularly Catholics in Ireland and around the world, my immediate
concern is for the pope's health and I want to wish him well in his