THE BISHOP of Gloucester the Rt Rev Michael Perham has praised Pope Benedict XV1 for the way he valued the unity of the church in the aftermath of his shock resignation.

Pope Benedict announced that was resigning on Monday saying he was too old to carry on as head of the Catholic Church.

Bishop Michael said: "Pope Benedict has valued the unity of the church and cared deeply about its influence in a world which sometimes seems to have lost its sense of God.

"Christians beyond his own church have reason to be thankful for his ministry as Bishop of Rome and his visit to Britain was, for us here in the British churches, a highlight of his pontificate."

While studying in Rome, Canon Tom Gunning of the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Beeches Green, Stroud met the Pope when he was Cardinal Ratzinger.

Canon Gunning also saw him speak in Birmingham in 2010 during his UK visit.

"He always came across as a very holy person but I think he will be remembered more for his academic teachings rather than his time as Pope," said Canon Gunning.

"He accepted the job as Pope but his skills were really in the academic world as he didn’t seem to have the managerial skills needed to be the head of such a large office, which can be seen through his mishandling of the various scandals during his pontificate.

"He is 86 well past what most would consider an acceptable age for retirement and I think more Pope’s should be retiring rather than suffering on in poor health until their death."

According to the Vatican, the Pope will step down on Thursday, February 28 – making him the first pontiff to resign in nearly 600 years.