Methodist Church leaders have offered their prayers for Pope Benedict XVI after he announced his resignation today.
The Reverend Dr Mark Wakelin, President of the Methodist Conference, said: "We were shocked to hear of Pope Benedict XVI's resignation, which must have been a difficult decision to make.
"We thank God for his ministry, and for the significant work we share with Roman Catholics worldwide in the name of the Gospel.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters at this time. We pray for Pope Benedict and for those involved in choosing his successor."
The Reverend Neil Stubbens, Connexional Ecumenical Officer, said Methodists would be surprised to hear the news but also aware of the shock it will be for their Roman Catholic sisters and brothers.
"Now is the time for prayer and seeking God's guidance as a successor is sought," he said.
The Reverend Ken Howcroft, who represents World Methodism in Rome, said: "It is sad when a Christian leader has to lay aside an office in this way. I was present when the Pope presided at a service to mark the end of this year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
"His address was excellent and clear. But he has started to look more frail recently, and there are great challenges urgently facing all our Churches. It will be fascinating to be in Rome as a new Pope is found."