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Press digest

The following are the top stories in the Maltese and overseas press.

The Maltese newspapers all feature the Pope’s resignation on their front pages.

The Times dedicates all of its front page to the Pope, saying this will be the first resignation in 600 years.

In other stories, The Malta Independent reports that Austin Gatt reiterated that he never discussed oil procurement with George Farrugia.

l-orizzont says the GWU has asked the auditor-general to investigate the granting of cleaning services by the government to a particular contractor.

In-Nazzjon says the €1.2 billion financial package from the EU will be used for more job creation.

The overseas press

Pope Benedict XVI's decision to resign as head of the Catholic Church dominates the international media while stunned religious leaders and heads of state paid tribute to the ailing German pontiff.

Deutsche Welle quotes Chancellor Angela Merkel describing Josef Alois Ratzinger, who would step down on February 28, as "one of the most significant religious thinkers of our time". German President Joachim Gauck, who met the pope on a recent visit to Rome, said that the pope's "faith, wisdom and personable modesty" left him "deeply impressed".

The Washington Times reports President Barack Obama said he and his wife offered their prayers to the retiring pontiff. In a statement, Obama wrote: "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."

According to L’Echo, EU President Herman van Rompuy said in a tweet that he had the “greatest respect” for the Pope’s decision, adding that his pontificate was short but “extremely difficult”.

Ansa says President, Giorgio Napolitano of Italy said Benedict had shown "extraordinary courage and an extraordinary sense of responsibility", Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, on the sidelines of a convention in Milan, said he was surprised with the unexpected news.

Le Monde quotes French President François Hollande saying the Pope's decision to resign was "eminently respectable". "This is a human decision and one tied to a desire that must be respected."

British Prime Minister David Cameron said the pope would be missed as a "spiritual leader to millions". The Times says Cameron also praised Benedict for working "tirelessly" to improve ties with predominantly Anglican Britain.

In the Philippines, President Benigno Aquino told The Daily Tribune the country was grateful for the "many prayers and comforting words Pope Benedict had dedicated to Filipinos in times of calamity and challenge".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the Pope's "courage". A spokesman for Israel's Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger told the AFP news agency said ties between Judaism and Catholicism "became much closer" during Benedict's time as pope, bringing about "a decrease in anti-Semitism around the world." The World Jewish Congress in New York also praised Benedict's interfaith efforts, saying that "no pope before him made more strides to improve the relationship with the Jews

Al Ahram reports Chief Imam for the Sunni muslims, Ahmad el Tayyeb, expressed "shock" at the news from the margins of a closed door meeting in Cairo to elect a new grand Mufti of Egypt.

Several theologians told Fox News they expected the next leader of the billion-member church to continue Benedict’s conservatism, especially since the bulk of the College of Cardinals was selected by Benedict himself. William Hill, Britain's largest bookmaker, offered odds of three to one for Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze, who is 80. Odds were set at seven to two for Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet and Ghanian Cardinal Peter Turkson. Irish bookmaker Paddy Power had the same trio as frontrunners, but made Ouellet the favorite. Britain's Ladbrokes had Turkson the leading contender. Other possible successors include Cardinal Angelo Scola, the archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, the archbishop of Vienna and Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras.

In other news...

Adevarul reports Romania’s Prime Minister Victor Ponta has reacted angrily to the suggestion that horse meat found in processed meals in supermarkets across a number of European countries could have come from his country. Findus withdrew frozen lasagnes containing horse meat last week, claiming Romania could have been the source. Ponta said no fraud had been committed by Romanian companies. Meanwhile, Euronews says EU Ministers have been summoned to an emergency meeting to discuss the expanding scandal.

Kathimerini reports Greece has been hit by an unprecedented wave of metal thefts as its recession-hit people turn to crime. Train lines, bridges, cables and even cemeteries have all been targeted for scrap to feed a market driven by China and India. Some 3,635 people have been arrested in Greece for metal theft between the start of 2010 and August 2012.

Criminal conviction and publicity are the major deterrents for buyers of sex in Ireland. The Irish Times quotes the results of an Immigrant Council of Ireland survey which also showed that one in four buyers of sex in Ireland believed prostitutes were trafficked, controlled or under age. The majority of buyers had paid for sex when abroad, mostly in Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and Thailand, showing that buyers are attracted to destinations where prostitution has been legalised or is tolerated. The survey also found that those who used prostitutes were most likely to be middle-aged men who had completed third level education and were earning more than €20,000.

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