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CWN - Most of the world’s Orthodox leaders have responded to the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI with statements of praise for the outgoing Roman Pontiff—although a few prelates have issued sharply critical statements.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople referred to Pope Benedict as “a friend of our Church and a faithful servant of the sacred proposition for the union of all.” He said: “His writings will long speak of his deep theological understanding, through his knowledge of the Fathers of the undivided Church, his familiarity with contemporary reality, and his keen interest in the problems of humankind.”

Speaking for the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the chief of external affairs for the Moscow patriarchate, said that Pope Benedict deservedly “enjoys great respect in the Christian world,” and said that the Pope had shown as “sensitivity that makes it possible for him to build relations with the Orthodox Church.”

Leaders of the Greek Orthodox Church, who has remained cool toward ecumenical gestures from Rome, took a very different attitude. Metropolitan Jeremias of Gortys and Megalopis asked rhetorically why so many people were concerned about the departure of an arch-heretic. Metropolitan Serapheim of Piraeus attributed the papal resignation to the scandals engulfing “the heretical religious society of Roman Catholicism.”