GOULBURN’S Catholic community is praying for Pope Benedict XVI after his “courageous” decision to resign because of advanced age.
Mary Queen of Apostles Goulburn Parish priest Father Dermid McDermott said the resignation – the first in 600 years - had taken everyone by surprise.
“I think that it was a courageous act on his part,” Fr McDermott said.
“To break a tradition where you are normally appointed until you die, this changes expectations for a lot of people of the Catholic faith.”
Federal Senator Ursula Stephens said she was deeply saddened by his resignation.
“His Holiness has a deep affection for Australia and has spoken warmly of his visit to Australia for the World Youth Day Celebrations in 2008,” she said.
“We have all witnessed his growing frailty in recent years, and know he will be well cared for in the contemplative community he will join within the Vatican.
“Our prayers are with him during this transition.”
Pope Benedict, now 85, stated he decided to resign because of the “pace of change in the modern world” and his increasing frailty.
“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,” he told a group of cardinals.
“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.”
Pope Benedict, formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, created a milestone when he became one of the oldest popes elected at the age of 78 back in 2005.
Fr McDermott also mentioned that the Archdiocese of Canberra/Goulburn was waiting on the decision as to who will be appointed as their new archbishop.
“I’m not sure how the Pope’s resignation will affect us here in Goulburn, because we are still waiting to find out whether we have a new archbishop,” he said.
“The decision on a new pope will hopefully be made by Easter (March 31). This will mean we should also have a new Archbishop by Easter. However Hobart, who also needs a new archbishop, might get in first, because they have been waiting a lot longer than us.”
Senator Stephens first met Pope Benedict in Sydney, where he thanked her for her work as a member of the Co-ordination Committee for the World Youth Day Celebrations and again when she attended the Canonisation of Australia’s first saint, Saint Mary of the Cross Mackillop in 2010.
“He said then how much he loved Australia and the vibrancy of the country,” she said.
“He has reiterated that several times, including during the celebrations surrounding the canonisation and at the blessing and opening of Domus Australia, the Australian Pilgrim’s house in Rome.”
Pope Benedict was particularly moved by the poignancy of former Prime Minister Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generations.
It was a very difficult decision, but one that His Holiness has made in the interest of the global Catholic community, Dr Stephens said.
Pope Benedict will officially step down on February 28, and a Conclave of Cardinals will anoint a successor.
There are a number of potential successors for the position, with calls for the next Pope to come from Latin America, a stronghold of the Catholic Church.
There is also speculation that the new Pope should come from Africa, with betting agencies predicting that Cardinal Peter Turkson from Ghana is the favourite.
Cardinal Turkson has been the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace since 2009, and was appointed by Pope Benedict himself. Two other potential candidates are Cardinal Francis Arinze from Nigeria and Cardinal Marc Quellet, the former archbishop of Quebec City in Canada.