Pope accepts resignation of Maronite church head

Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of the spiritual head of Lebanon's Maronites, the largest Catholic church in the Middle East.

Lebanese Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir was elected patriarch of Antioch for the Maronites in 1986. The 90-year-old cardinal cited his old age in comments to the Lebanese media when he handed in his resignation.

The pontiff said in a message to Sfeir released by the Vatican on Saturday that the cardinal's decision was an "expression of great humility."

Christians make up about 40 percent of Lebanon's 4 million people.

Some Christian politicians have criticized Sfeir, saying he was too involved in politics and too supportive of Lebanon's Western-backed political coalition.