URGENT ¥¥¥ Germany expresses 'respect', 'gratitude' for pope

A spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday the German-born pope deserved "respect" and "gratitude" for his nearly eight years as pontiff after he announced he was to step down.

"The federal government has the greatest possible respect for the Holy Father, for his accomplishments, for his life-long work for the Catholic Church," said Steffen Seibert, adding he deserved also "gratitude."