CATHOLICS in Burnley have been contemplating the shock news of Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to resign as head of the Roman Catholic Church – the first time this has happened in 600 years.
The historic announcement has sent shockwaves throughout the world as nearly billion stunned Catholics prepare for the election of a new Pontiff, expected to be in place by the end of March.
Fr Kevin Tierney, of St John the Baptist RC Church, Ivy Street, said he was surprised but not entirely shocked at the 85-year-old pope’s decision.
He said: “The Holy Father has obviously taken a lot of contemplation and prayer before reaching this difficult decision.
“It appears he believes that he is physically incapable now of continuing the pontificate in the way he would like.
“I think Pope Benedict’s pontificate will prove to have been a good bridge between the long service of Pope John Paul II and whoever is elected next.”
Fr Tierney said he had spoken on the phone to friends in Rome who revealed the atmosphere in the Vatican City was one of shock. The last pope to resign was Gregory XII, who left the papacy in 1415.
Fr Tierney said he would like to see a younger Pope elected when Pope Benedict steps down on February 28th.
He added: “I would like to see someone elected who was perhaps born in the post-war period. There is always talk about the next pope coming from Africa and South America, which I think would be good to see. I feel the next big challenge for the Church and whoever leads it is how do people see the relevance of faith in their life, and how we can guide them on that journey.”
Benedict, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was elected on April 19th, 2005, following the death of Pope John Paul II.
The conservative Pontiff announced his decision in a statement in Latin saying: “I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”