Byline: SARAH BARDON Political Reporter email@example.com
ARCHBISHOP of Dublin Diarmuid Martin yesterday paid tribute to Pope Benedict and claimed he had a great interest in Ireland.
The senior cleric said even though he never visited, he was "well-informed about the country".
Dr Martin added he had great "personal affection" for the Holy Father who would have given "clear consideration" to his decision to retire.
He said: "I have known him for many years. I am not surprised that he would take a decision of this kind if he felt that the burden that he was under was too much."
The Archbishop, who is at odds of 80-1 to succeed Pope Benedict, claimed there were unfair stereotypes surrounding the Pope.
He added: "This Pope was a very different type of person, he was a very private person.
"People have tended to categorise him but I believe history will look on him in a much more varied way and see much more of the extraordinary things about him as a person and what he did.
"He was happiest when he was writing."
Dr Martin told RTE radio: "When we went out to our visit five years ago, I went out with all my statistics ready to tell him about the Dublin Diocese.
"He sat me down and to my surprise, he said, 'You were in Munich last Monday'. Then he went on and said, 'Tell me this, where are the points of contact between the Church in Ireland and those areas where the future of Irish culture is being developed?'
"A question like that you can't answer with statistics.
"He then asked me about the media, literature, about the arts, politics, about the universities.
"He wanted to know a lot about what was happening in Irish society, not in a way of pointing figures but of trying to learn and asking me and the Irish Church where we are in today's society."
Cardinal Sean Brady, the head of Ireland's Catholics, told a gathering in Armagh that the news had come as a shock to him personally.
He said: "With typical humility, courage and love for the Church he has clearly come to the view that the Lord now wants him to use his remaining physical and spiritual energies by serving the Church in prayer.
"On behalf of the Catholic Church in Ireland, I thank him for his generous service to the Church and for the great love and concern he has always shown to the church in Ireland.
"His announcement today echoes his words on the day he was elected Pope. Then he described himself as a humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord. I think this is a profound act of humility, a conscientious and responsible decision to hand over the ministry. …