This May 25, 2006 file photo shows Pope Benedict XVI lifting his scull cap during an ecumenical meeting at the Holy Trinity church in Warsaw, Poland.

Washington - President Barack Obama said he extended his appreciation and prayers to Pope Benedict, who shocked the world by resigning from leadership of the Roman Catholic Church on Monday.

“The Church plays a critical role in the United States and the world, and I wish the best to those who will soon gather to choose His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI's successor,” Obama said in a statement. - Reuters