Obama sends 'prayers and appreciation' to Pope

US President Barack Obama has sent his "prayers and appreciation" to Pope Benedict XVI and said the church plays a critical role in America and the world.

He also offered his "best wishes" to those selecting the Pope's successor:

"On behalf of Americans everywhere, Michelle and I wish to extend our appreciation and prayers to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. Michelle and I warmly remember our meeting with the Holy Father in 2009, and I have appreciated our work together over these last four years.

"The Church plays a critical role in the United States and the world, and I wish the best to those who will soon gather to choose His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI’s successor."

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Pope thankful for 'prayers'

The Pope has made his first appearance at St Peter's Square window since his resignation announcement and thanked the faithful for their "prayers and support."