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Spain's King Juan Carlos on Monday hailed the dedication of Pope Benedict XVI following the pontiff's shock announcement that he would resign.
"In the wake of the decision announced today by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, the king wants to express his appreciation for his dedication and work during his nearly eight years in charge of the Catholic Church," the royal household said in a statement.
"King Juan Carlos values the special relationship maintained by His Holiness with Spain, reflected in three memorable visits of Benedict XVI to our country, in which he held meetings with the Spanish royal family that were characterised by warmth and affection," the statement added.
Pope Benedict XVI visited Spain in 2006, 2010 and 2011 -- making it one of the countries he visited most since becoming pontiff in April 2005.