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Many Europeans reacted with shock to the news that Pope Benedict XVI is to resign.

On Monday, the Vatican announced that the pontiff would step down on February 28 due to his “advanced age”.

He becomes the first Pope since the middle ages to resign.

Outside the Frauenkirche in Munich, some German worshippers struggled to come to terms with the Pope’s decision.

Local resident, Gertrud Wiebrath said: “I would only accept it for reasons of illness. Other than that, isn’t it theoretically impossible for the Pope to resign voluntarily?”

Another passer-by, Andrea Wormsforf, had a similar response: “I could only accept (his resignation) if he were ill and could therefore no longer carry out his duties. But I can’t accept any other reason, none whatsoever.”

Ronald Dunn, originally from Scotland, was suspicious, suggesting the full reason for Benedict’s resignation would not be known for some time.

“It (the resignation) is unique in terms of the papacy so it could be deeper than what we have been told at the moment,” said Dunn.

In the French capital, Paris, people said they could understand why he decided not to stay in the role for the rest of his life.

“At his age, I’m not shocked. The poor man is burnt out. It’s normal. Leave him in peace,” said one Paris resident.

Another woman said: “It’s very rare. Not since the middle ages has it happened. But he was very ill and knew he was ill when he was chosen.”

The last Pope to resign willingly was Celestine V in 1294 after reigning for only five months, his resignation was known as “the great refusal” and was condemned by the poet Dante in the “Divine Comedy”.

Gregory XII reluctantly abdicated in 1415 to end a dispute with a rival claimant to the papacy.

Copyright © 2014 euronews

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