The Catholic Bishop of Portsmouth has given his reaction to the news that the Pope is to step down.
The Rt Rev Philip Egan said: "I am personally very sad at this news but as a Bishop with all it entails I can completely understand the Holy Father’s reason.
"It is many centuries since a Pope resigned from office and this will be a new situation for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
"The Diocese of Portsmouth is full of gratitude to God for all we have received from Pope Benedict XVI.
"We pray for him and for his health and we ask the Lord for His grace and guidance for the Church.
"We pray for the man who will be called next to fulfil the office of Peter given to us by Christ."