Pope Benedict resignation: Cardinal Keith O'Brien shocked by news

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Media captionPope Benedict visited Scotland in 2010

Scotland's Cardinal Keith O'Brien said he was shocked and saddened to hear of Pope Benedict's decision to resign.

The UK's most senior Roman Catholic added that he was praying for the pontiff who will vacate the post on 28 February.

The Vatican said Pope Benedict was stepping down for health reasons.

Cardinal O'Brien welcomed the German, who became head of the Catholic church in April 2005, to Scotland in September 2010.

He met the Queen in Edinburgh and celebrated Mass before 65,000 people at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow.

In a statement issued after news of the Pope's resignation, Cardinal O'Brien said: "Like many people throughout the world, I was shocked and saddened to hear of the decision by Pope Benedict XVI to resign. I know that his decision will have been considered most carefully and that it has come after much prayer and reflection.

"I will offer my prayers for Pope Benedict and call on the Catholic community of Scotland to join me in praying for him at this time of deterioration in his health as he recognises his incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to him."

On 17 March, the Scottish cardinal will be 75, the statutory retirement age for Catholic Bishops.

However, he remains a Cardinal Elector which will enable him to vote for Pope Benedict's successor.

Cardinal O'Brien said: "I hope I will also be able to rely on the prayers of Catholics across the world for the Cardinal Electors as we prepare to travel to Rome in order to participate in the conclave, which will be convoked to elect a successor as Bishop of Rome and Supreme Pontiff."

'I'll miss him'

Glasgow's Archbishop Philip Tartaglia told a congregation at the city's St Andrew's Cathedral that the Pope's resignation had left him "almost lost for words".

He said his Holiness would be remembered as "a Pope of surprises" and "a latter day father of the church". Archbishop Tartaglia added: "I'll miss him."

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond said he wished the Pope a "very peaceful retirement".

He added that the Scottish government held the Holy See in the "utmost respect".

Mr Salmond said: "We should respect the decision of His Holiness to pass on his ministry in a selfless gesture, on health grounds, in the best interests of the church.

"Like many Scots, I remember with great fondness the resounding success of Pope Benedict's visit to Scotland in 2010 and the papal Mass celebrated at Bellahouston Park."

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said: "It is sad to hear that Pope Benedict has been forced to resign due to ill health after such a short time.

"He touched the hearts of many Scots during his visit to the UK in 2010 and will be remembered fondly by the thousands who saw him that day."