Swansea priest pays tribute as Pope Benedict XVI steps down
CATHOLICS around the world will be both shocked and excited at the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, a Swansea church leader has said.
The 85-year-old has confirmed he will stand down at the end of the month after repeatedly examining his conscience before God and deciding due to his age, his strengths were no longer adequate to continue as Pope.
Father Michael Burke, of St Joseph's Cathedral in the Greenhill area of Swansea, said yesterday's announcement came as a complete surprise even to the Vatican.
Father Burke said: "It is a complete surprise to the whole world but it is in line with the way Pope Benedict would do something.
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"It was done in the context of his meeting with the cardinals who he sees as his advisors.
"It was only right that he made the announcement first and foremost to them before letting the rest of the world know.
"Initially there was shock, but it is a sensible decision in the long run. His health was deteriorating over several years.
"He was the last to be expected to be voted in as Pope himself.
"When he visited Britain every now and again you would see a shot of him having a walking stick, it was clear that he had difficulty walking.
"He no longer walks up the aisle in St Peter's Basilica, he is getting frailer and frailer.
"With that in mind there is a tremendous excitement in the Catholic church of who his successor might be."
Around 350 people attend St Joseph's Cathedral every weekend for services in the church which dates back to 1888.
Pope Benedict issued an official statement confirming his resignation yesterday and said: "I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.
"However, in today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me."
Pope Benedict is the first pope to resign since Pope Gregory XII who resigned in 1415 in order to end the Western Schism, which had reached the point where there were three claimants to the Papal throne.
The Rev Vincent Nichols, President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, said: "Pope Benedict's announcement has shocked and surprised everyone.
"Yet, on reflection, I am sure that many will recognise it to be a decision of great courage and characteristic clarity of mind and action.
"The Holy Father recognises the challenges facing the Church and that 'strength of mind and body are necessary' for his tasks of governing the Church and proclaiming the Gospel.
"I salute his courage and his decision.
"I ask people of faith to keep Pope Benedict in their prayers.
"We Catholics will do so, with great affection and the highest esteem for his ministry as our Holy Father remembering with joy his visit to the United Kingdom in 2010."