TAOISEACH Enda Kenny and President Michael D Higgins have paid tribute to Pope Benedict XVI on his retirement.
The Taoiseach said the pontiff's decision to leave his role at the head of the Catholic Church made it an historic day.
"On behalf of the Government and people of Ireland, I would like to extend best wishes to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI following his declaration today that he intends to step down from his office," he said.
"This is clearly a decision which the Holy Father has taken following careful consideration and deep prayer and reflection.
"It reflects his profound sense of duty to the Church, and also his deep appreciation of the unique pressures of spiritual leadership in the modern world."
The Taoiseach said the pope has given strong leadership and great service to the Church.
Pope Benedict, 85, will leave on February 28 after nearly eight years in office.
He is the first pontiff to resign in nearly 600 years and the decision sets the stage for a conclave to elect a new pope before the end of March.
Mr Higgins said he had written to the pope expressing his good wishes on his decision to retire.
"In his letter, President Higgins acknowledged the scholarship and personal commitment that Pope Benedict brought to his leadership of the Roman Catholic community over the past eight years and wished him every peace and fulfilment in his retirement," the president's office said in a statement.
The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415 in a deal to end the Great Western Schism among competing papal claimants.
"Relations between the Vatican and the UK Government are very good, very strong, probably better than they have been in the past.
"His historic visit to the United Kingdom was very warmly received last year. I wish him well and I also wish the Catholic Church well in the choice they'll be making in the coming weeks."
The Tanaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore has paid tribute to Pope Benedict's "huge contribution in working for world peace".
"Obviously like most people in the country and particularly Catholics in Ireland and indeed around the world, my immediate concern and that of most people is for the pope's health, and I want to wish him well in his retirement.
"I also want to say that he is someone who has worked tirelessly as leader of the Catholic Church.
"Last year alone he conducted a number of visits to Cuba and to Lebanon and in particular he has made a huge contribution in working for world peace. He's been a leader who has put world peace at the top of his agenda.
"That is an issue that as a country we share with him, the desire to bring peace to a world that in many areas is very troubled.
"I want to wish him well in his retirement and especially to wish him well with regard to his health."