02/11/2013 12:58 pm ET

Obama Extends 'Appreciation And Prayers' To Pope Benedict XVI After Resignation Announcement

President Barack Obama addressed the surprise resignation announcement of Pope Benedict XVI on Monday.

"On behalf of Americans everywhere, Michelle and I wish to extend our appreciation and prayers to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI," Obama said in a statement. "Michelle and I warmly remember our meeting with the Holy Father in 2009, and I have appreciated our work together over these last four years. The Church plays a critical role in the United States and the world, and I wish the best to those who will soon gather to choose His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI’s successor."

The Associated Press relays the background on the pope's decision:

Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday that he would resign on Feb. 28 because he was simply too infirm to carry on — the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years. The decision sets the stage for a conclave to elect a new pope before the end of March.

The president and first lady met with the pope at Vatican City in 2009. During their meeting, the pope reportedly reaffirmed the Catholic Church's opposition to abortion and stem cell research to Obama and discussed a variety of other topics.



Pope Benedict XVI Resigns