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Pope's resignation greeted with shock in Bradford
Pope Benedict's sudden announcement today that he will resign on February 28 because he is too old and infirm to carry on has been greeted with shock and surprise in the Bradford district.
The 85-year-old is the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years. His decision sets the stage for a conclave to elect a new pope before the end of March.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Leeds, which includes Bradford, said that the Pope’s decision “has come as a surprise to everyone in the Catholic Church and to the whole world”.
Monsignor John Wilson said: “The Diocese of Leeds wishes to express its spiritual solidarity with Pope Benedict XVI and the worldwide Catholic Church at this time.
“Pope Benedict is a humble disciple of Jesus Christ and a faithful and courageous successor of St Peter.
“His intellect and witness have sustained Catholics throughout the past eight years.
“We will now join in praying with our Holy Father for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we move towards the election of a new Pope in a few weeks time.
“Until then, we pledge our loyalty and affectionate fidelity to Pope Benedict and unite is asking the Lord to bless him and the Church across the world.”
Father Stephen Brown, of the Catholic Chaplaincy to Bradford University and the College, described Pope Benedict’s decision as “cataclysmic” and said he was “one of the greatest minds we have seen on the world stage for a century”.
The priest had been at a funeral for three hours, only to return to be told the news.
Fr Brown added: “I am still coming to terms with it, and feel a bit dazed.
“Few people have his grasp of reality and the breadth of his vision and intellectual clout.
“He sees things in proper perspective and how all things fit together.
“I have no doubt that here at the University and in every parish, people will be praying for him in the months to come.
“It is highly unusual, but the Pope is a very humble man and wants to step down now rather than become progressively feeble.
“I can see the wisdom of that and he has left a great legacy.”
Commenting on the comparison with Pope John Paul II, who remained as Pope until his death in 2005, he said: “I do not think he meant for all popes to do that.
“I think Pope John Paul II wanted to teach the lesson of diginity of human life even when not at our physical best.”
Father Wieslaw Duracz, of the Polish Roman Catholic Church, in Edmund Street, Bradford, said he was surprised. “He is an important person for the church,” he added.
“We respect the Pope but it is a surprise. I shall have to read about it more, but Pope John Paul II served the Church until the end and he was suffering.”
Helena Danielczuk, the former head of the Polish Federation in Bradford, many of whom are Catholic, said that she was completely shocked.
“This is severely out of kilter,” she added. “I can’t imagine it would be anything about what is happening in the world at the moment.There must be underlying reasons because Popes just do not that even when they are ill.”
The Pope announced his decision in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals today.
He told the meeting: “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, 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.”
The Anglican Bishop of Bradford, the Right Reverend Nick Baines, said: "I was surprised to hear of the resignation of the Pope. This is a brave decision, made not for personal interest, but for the good of the Church and its ability to do its business effectively.
“This attitude characterises the Pope's courageous, if not always popular, stance on many issues. He has been willing to stand his ground intellectually when the wind has been blowing in a contrary direction, and he has earned respect for doing so.
“I hope his retirement will be long and peaceful."