Pope Benedict merits ‘respect’, Hollande says

French President Francois Hollande Monday hailed Pope Benedict XVI's decision to step down due to old age was "eminently respectable".

Pope Benedict merits 'respect', Hollande says
File photo: Arturo Mari/ Obseratore Romano / AFP

Head of the Catholic Church Pope Benedict XVI, announced on Monday his intention to step down as head of the Catholic Church on February 28 due to old age.

"After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry," Benedict said in a statement released by the Vatican.

French president said Benedict's decision was worthy of respect.

"It is an eminently respectable decision," Hollande said. "It is a human decision and one that should be respected. The president said he did not want to comment further on "issues that belong to the church".

Bishop Podvin, the spokesman for the Conference of French Bishops said Pope Benedict’s decision had provoked “real emotion”.

“He was given the ultimate mission, which he took one,” Bodvin told Europe1 radio. “He previously wrote in the book Light of the World that if one day he felt he could not continue this mission then he would take a decision.

“I bow to him with great respect. I will remember the image of a humble man with a humility as equally impressive as his intellect.

“He had extraordinary strength to take over from John Paul II and never tried to pretend to be like him.”

For his part, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois hailed what he called "a particularly courageous act." Speaking to France TV, the Archbishop of Paris said that Pope Benedict's decision "opened up a new phase in the history of the papacy," and was "admirable precisely because the pope is still very lucid."

Elsewhere, the president of France’s Christian Democratic Party (PCD) Christine Boutin said the pope's decision has come as a "shock".

"For Catholics, this is another surprise," she said. "But the church will go on. I do not know the underlying reasons to explain this decision by the Pope, but for us it seems to have a spiritual dimension.

"The Pope is moral authority for Catholics and a moral guide for the world," she told Europe 1.

On the question of what Pope Benedict might do next, the writer Christophe Dickès told French weekly Le Point, "I imagine he'll probably retire to a monastery. Or he might stay in Rome. One thing is sure, though, he'll keep working. He's an intellectual, and he'll remain one."

For more reaction on Pope Benedict's decision to step down click here.

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At least 3,000 paedophiles active in French church since 1950: report

Thousands of paedophiles have operated inside the French Catholic Church since 1950, the head of an independent commission investigating the scandal told AFP, days ahead of the release of its report.

French archbishop Cardinal Philippe Barbarin leads his last mass,on June 28, 2020. Barbarin was released on appeal on January 30 for his silence on the sexual abuse of a priest, and resigned quickly afterwards.
French archbishop Cardinal Philippe Barbarin leads his last mass,on June 28, 2020. Barbarin was released on appeal on January 30 for his silence on the sexual abuse of a priest, and resigned quickly afterwards. Photo: Jeff Pachoud/AFP

The commission’s research had uncovered between 2,900 and 3,200 paedophile priests or other members of the church, said Jean-Marc Sauve, adding that it was “a minimum estimate”.

The commission’s report is due to be released on Tuesday after two and a half years of research based on church, court and police archives, as well as interviews with witnesses.

The report, which Sauve said runs to 2,500 pages, will attempt to quantify both the number of offenders and the number of victims.

It will also look into “the mechanisms, notably institutional and cultural ones” within the Church which allowed paedophiles to remain, and will offer 45 proposals.


The independent commission was set up in 2018 by the French Catholic Church in response to a number of scandals that shook the Church in France and worldwide.

Its formation also came after Pope Francis passed a landmark measure obliging those who know about sex abuse in the Catholic Church to report it to their superiors.

Made up of 22 legal professionals, doctors, historians, sociologists and theologians, its brief was to investigate allegations of child sex abuse by clerics dating back to the 1950s.

When it began its work it called for witness statements and set up a telephone hotline, then reported receiving thousands of messages in the months that followed.