Pope Benedict XVI waving at the crowd from his Popemobile as he arrives to lead a mass at the Garden of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem in 2009: photo - EPA / Atef Safadi Supplier: PAP / EPA.
“The major difference [between them] was that John Paul II had this incredible blessing of boundless charisma. It’s not that Pope Benedict wasn't charismatic, it’s just that JP II was so charismatic,” Rabbi Schudrich told the English Section at Polish Radio following the announcement that Pope Benedict XVI would resign as pontiff on 28 February.
“It certainly was not easy to be the successor to our countryman, the great Pope John Paul II,” Poland's foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski has said, adding “but I hope we will work well with his successor.”
Minister Sikorski refused to comment on Pope Benedict's, at times, controversial pontificate, saying only that it came at a time when, “Christianity had become the most persecuted religion in the world.”
Archbishop of Warsaw, Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz expressed shock at the news of the abdication of Pope Benedict XVI.
"It is a great pity. Benedict XVI is a pope who intellectually and spiritually did a fine job leading the church in the right direction," the cardinal said on Monday.
Archbishop of Krakow, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, a long time aid of the Polish Pope, said that “we are grateful for Benedict XVI's friendship, Pope John Paul II's beatification, and exceptional kindness to the Polish people.”
"He led the Church of Christ after the departure of Pope John Paul II with great care and wisdom, that flowed from his intellectual capacity, and with deep faith," the cardinal added.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti has said he was "greatly shaken by this unexpected news".
A German government spokesman said he was "moved and touched" by the surprise resignation of the pontiff and that the government in Berlin “has the highest respect for the Holy Father, for what he has done, for his contributions over the course of his life to the Catholic Church. He has left a very personal signature as a thinker at the head of the Church, and also as a shepherd."
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected as Pope in 2005 at the age of 78, one of the oldest new pontiffs in history.
Born in southern Germany in 1927, he joined Hitler Youth during WWII and was conscripted as an anti-aircraft gunner but later deserted.
Pope Benedict is thought of as a theological conservative, with uncompromising views on homosexuality and women priests, to the dismay of some of his congregation.
He was also seen as weak in being slow to confront sexual abuse within the Church: allegations which dogged much of his pontificate.
Cardinals will meet in the Vatican in March to choose a new Pope. (pg)
reporting by Peter Gentle and Hagay Hacohen