Salford’s Catholic community didn’t see the ‘shock’ resignation of Pope Benedict XVI coming, a priest told MM today.
In a statement issued on Monday morning, the pope claimed his strength had ‘deteriorated’ over the last few months – leaving him unfit to carry out his duties.
He is the first pope to resign in almost 600 years.
Father John Flynn, communications officer for the Diocese of Salford, expressed his sadness while paying tribute to the pontiff’s eight-year papacy.
“It is shocking and I don’t think many of us could have seen it coming,” said Father Flynn.
“He is an extremely wise man who managed to bring people together in what was a trying time for the Church when he was elected.
“As well as being compassionate and enthusiastic, he produced a great number of documents and writings which many have taken great inspiration from.”
Though extremely rare for a pope to resign, Father Flynn believes the modern pressures facing the church may have been too much for a man of his age.
“It is an extraordinary turn of events but I think being head of the church in these times is totally different,” he added.
“The man is 85-years-old and it could be argued that he may not have had the physical strength to appear in public for much longer.
“I’m sure he thought that it would not be sensible or useful to continue when there is so much more of a workload.”
Pope Benedict will remain in position until February 28, while a Vatican spokesman revealed the church hope to appoint a new pontiff by the end of March.