Washington: German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she has `very highest respect` for German-born Pope Benedict XVI`s decision to step down, a move that the Pope`s brother said he was considering for months amid ailing health.
Georg Ratzinger, 89, told the dpa news agency at his home in Regensburg that his brother had been advised by his doctor not to take any more transatlantic trips and was having increasing difficulty walking.
According to the New York Daily News, Ratzinger said of his 85-year-old brother, Pope Benedict XVI who announced earlier in the day he would resign Feb. 28, that his age was weighing on him, adding that at this age his brother wants more rest.
In Berlin, Merkel told reporters that she saw the Pope`s decision as one that he made for his church and its members.
She said that if the Pope himself has now, after thorough consideration, come to the conclusion that he no longer has sufficient strength to exercise his office, that earns my very highest respect, the report said.
She added that `in our time of ever-lengthening life, many people will be able to understand how the pope as well has to deal with the burdens of aging`.
Merkel added that `she thanked Benedict XVI for his work and wished him from the bottom of her heart all the best for the coming years.`
Merkel, who is a Protestant, praised Benedict for his efforts to promote dialogue with other Christian denominations and religions. She said that he "reached out his hand to Jews as well as Muslims."
She added that `Benedict XVI is and will remain one of the most important religious thinkers of our time`, it added.