HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco has been visiting Brazil lately and was there when he learned, along with the rest of the world, that His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI will resign from his office at the end of the month. Monaco has a long and close history with the papacy and the Principality is one of the last remaining officially Catholic monarchies in the world. Prince Albert II, who attended the inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI, was quick to release a statement saying that he was emotional upon hearing the news that the Pope would be stepping down but called the decision "courageous". The Sovereign Prince praised the Pope and spoke of his most recent visit to the Vatican with HSH Princess Charlene, which was the first time the Princess had met the Pontiff. Prince Albert also assured the Pope that he would remain in the prayers of the House of Grimaldi. Pope Benedict XVI cited his age and physical weakness as the reason for his resignation. The Pope had planned to visit the Principality of Monaco last year but it never came about, possibly due to the Pontiff's increasing frailty. The Principality of Monaco has maintained diplomatic relations with the Holy See longer than almost any other existing country and Prince Albert II is a high ranking member of the Knights of Malta and a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre.