THE revelation yesterday of the sudden resignation of Pope Benedict XVI has left the local Catholic community reeling, not least in Annaclone where parish priest Father Francis Kearney says his parishioners are slowly coming to terms with the news.
And in Rome itself, the mood is one of shock according to Banbridge-born Father Aidan McGrath who works in canon law and is Secretary General of the Order of Friars Minor in the city.
However, when the shock had subsided, Father McGrath said he saw the resignation as a “positive thing” and said he was “delighted” that the Pope felt able to take such action.
“I am delighted that the man feels free to do this (retire),” he said. “I think any person should be able to say that and I think it is good that he doesn’t feel pressured or burdened by the office he holds.”
Meanwhile, from the parish of Annaclone, Father Kearney, expressed similar sentiments and described the move as “courageous”.
“I am somewhat surprised, but not shocked at this very courageous decision,” said Father Kearney, who is responsible for around 1,500 worshippers who attend St Colman’s in Annaclone and St Mary’s, Magherally.
“I had been listening to ‘Nolan’ on the radio when I heard the news and although it has shocked a lot of people, I think the Pope is a wise man to have made this decision to step down.
“This appears to have been entirely his own decision and I am glad he has had the sense to make it when he is able, rather than be left hopelessly trying to do a job he feels incapable of doing at a later date. I think it is a very courageous decision - and it is also a historical one.”
Pope Benedict, who is the first pope to resign since the middle ages, will step down on February 28 due to failing health. He has been head of the Catholic Church for nearly eight years.