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Shockwaves are being felt around the world following the resignation announcement of Pope Benedict XVI – nowhere more so than in central Rome.

A nun on St Peter’s Square expressed her sorrow, telling euronews: “It’s really surprising. We didn’t expect that. We’re very sorry because we loved him so much. The world is turning upside down but our destiny is in God’s hands. “

Some suspect the Vatican may have pushed the ageing pope out. “He might have been forced to resign. It’s something that hasn’t happened for 500 years, I’ve heard,” one woman said.

Others looked ahead to Benedict XVI’s potential successors. “Even before Cardinal Ratzinger’s election, people were talking about a black pope, so since then we have been waiting for a black pope,” another woman suggested.

As speculation heats up about who might replace him, the pope himself is expected to make a speech on Ash Wedneday.

Euronews reporter in Rome Loredana Pianta reported: “It’s an incredible piece of news. Catholics and the rest of the world still find it difficult to believe that the pope could step down and now everybody is keen to hear directly from him the reasons why.”

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