CATHOLIC leaders have voiced surprise at the Pope’s decision to stand down.
They spoke after Benedict XVI became the first pontiff to resign in almost 600 years, a decision he attributed to waning ‘strengths’.
Father Stephen Wright, of the Church of St Mary and St Modwen, in Guild Street, Burton, said: “It came as a surprise, but I don’t think anybody was entirely shocked.
“There’s always been a provision that the Pope is entitled to resign.
“It’s a great act of humility on behalf of Pope Benedict that he recognises being Pope is a ministry of service to the church community and wider world.
“If he’s come to the conclusion through prayer, it’s a very courageous and humble act.”
Fr Stephen, who met Benedict in Rome when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said he was a ‘great teacher’ of scripture, theology, philosophy and the human condition.
As to the Pope’s predecessor, the priest said: “God’s grace will choose the next Pope.
“We pray he will be a holy man and a good church leader who will serve the community.”
Monsignor Joseph Phelan, of the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, in Ashby, said he understood the pontiff’s decision.
He said: “I regret he is standing down but I realise the amount of work is enormous, particularly now he’s advanced in years and can’t do what he could do a few years ago.”
Mons Phelan said the Pope was ‘a great pillar of faith’ with a gift for explaining complex ideas with simplicity.
He said the pontiff had recently completed a great three-volume work on Christ entitled ‘Jesus of Nazareth: My Personal Search for the Face of the Lord’.
As for Benedict’s successor, due to be elected following the Pope’s official retirement on February 28, Mons Phelan said he hoped the new pontiff would be similar to his predecessor.