The Washington Times - February 11, 2013, 12:29PM

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama said they were sending “our appreciation and prayers to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI” Monday after the 85-year-old Roman Catholic pontiff unexpectedly announced his retirement because of failing health.

“Michelle and I warmly remember our meeting with the Holy Father in 2009, and I have appreciated our work together over these last four years,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “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.”


The president has been at odds frequently with the American Catholic Church hierarchy over issues such as his mandate of contraceptive coverage in health-insurance plans.