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Vatican: Pope Benedict's abdication 'great act' says spokesman

last update: February 10, 19:48

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Rome, 10 Feb. (AKI) - Benedict XVI's resignation in February last year - the first by a pope since the Middle Ages - was "a great act of government", Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said on Monday.

"What I say, and what I said then, is that it seemed to me a great act of government, that is a decision taken freely that truly affects the situation and the history of the Church," Lombardi stated.

German-born Joseph Ratzinger's abdication from the papacy was "done with deep spirituality, great preparation" and "great courage," Lombardi said.

For the Catholic Church, the Benedict is "the grand old man, the sage, even the saint," he said.

Benedict's pontificate was hit by tensions with the Muslim world after a speech he gave in Regensburg Germany in 2006 that referred to violence under Islam and was rocked by the the paedophile clergy scandal and disclosures of confidential documents that laid bare venomous infighting and corruption at the Vatican.

Benedict XVI is no longer in the public spotlight but continues to lead an active life with meetings and spiritual exchanges with many people including the current pontiff, Pope Francis, Lombardi said.

"He really gives an impression of great spiritual serenity. He has kept his usual smile," said Lombardi, who is a Jesuit priest.

Having both an emeritus pope coexist with a reigning one has never been a cause for concern, since the papacy "is a service and not a power," Lombardi added.

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