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But after several years into his new job he showed that he not only did not bite but barely even barked.
In recent months, the Pope has looked increasingly frail in public sometimes being helped to walk by those around him.
A Vatican spokesman said the pontiff would step down from 1900 GMT on Feb. 28, leaving the office vacant until a successor was chosen to Benedict who succeeded John Paul, one of history’s most popular pontiffs.
MEEK DEMEANOUR, STEELY INTELLECT
A spokesman for the German government said he was “moved” by the news while Israel’s chief rabbi praised Benedict’s inter-faith outreach and wished him good health.
Elected to the papacy on April 19, 2005 when he was 78 – 20 years older than John Paul was when he was elected – he ruled over a slower-paced, more cerebral and less impulsive Vatican.
But while conservatives cheered him for trying to reaffirm traditional Catholic identity, his critics accused him of turning back the clock on reforms by nearly half a century and hurting dialogue with Muslims, Jews and other Christians.
Under the German’s meek demeanour lay a steely intellect ready to dissect theological works for their dogmatic purity and debate fiercely against dissenters.
After appearing uncomfortable in the limelight at the start, he began feeling at home with his new job and showed that he intended to be Pope in his way.
Despite great reverence for his charismatic, globe-trotting predecessor – whom he put on the fast track to sainthood and whom he beatified in 2011 – aides said he was determined not to change his quiet manner to imitate John Paul’s style.