The Pope’s resignation will be effective as of February 28, and will see the Vatican and the Catholic Church left without a leader until a new Pope is chosen by the Cardinals through the papal conclave process.
The longest papal conclave in history having lasted two years and eight months following the death of Pope Clement IV.
Opinions expressed on Twitter have varied between respectful, critical and humorous, the uniting factor being the shock at the Pope’s announcement, which marks the first papal resignation in over 600 years.
“The Pope's resignation, for me, is a true lesson on humility, strength, service and faith. Thank [email protected] our Rock#PopeResigns,” writes one appreciative Twitter user.
“I love Pope Benedict XVI and will miss him dearly! His leadership helped lead me to convert to Catholicism. Praying for him & his successor,” tweets another user.
Meanwhile many comments are less supportive, and focus on the unusuality of a papal resignation.
“Hey @pontifex you're not allowed to resign. Popes die in office, they don't resign. What are you doing?” writes one user, with the sentiment echoed in many Tweets.
Much of the discussion, however, revolves around the Pope’s infamous Twitter account, many wondering why the Pope has not tweeted his resignation, with a popular Tweet asking: “What's a Twitter account for if you can't drop bombshell news on it? @Pontifex is silent on Pope's resignation.”
A humourous Tweet concludes on a clever question, however.
“So, does Benedict XVI get to keep the @Pontifex Twitter handle or does that belong to the Church?#theimportantquestions”.