Kiwi bishop shocked at resignation of 'great teacher'
A Manawatu bishop who worked with Pope Benedict at the Vatican says he is surprised at the news of the resignation of the leader he describes as "a great teacher".
Pope Benedict revealed in a historic announcement he no longer has the mental and physical strength to run the Roman Catholic Church and will become the first pontiff in 600 years to resign.
Coadjutor Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Palmerston North, Charles Drennan, said the church "had no prior indication that this was likely to happen."
Bishop Drennan spent seven years in the Vatican's Secretariat of State before coming to Palmerston North in 2011.
During his time at the Vatican, he accompanied Pope Benedict on trips to the Czech Republic and acted as a translator at public audiences.
He said Benedict was often compared to his predecessor, John Paul II, which skewed public perception of him.
"Benedict was the academic and an introvert by nature.
"He was quite a humble man, which was not the image always presented by the media."
He said Benedict's time teaching at universities was invaluable.
"I think those who actually know him - rather than those going off second-hand information - will remember him as a great teacher who was clear, accessible and gave incisive teaching."
Bishop Drennan said he was not sure who would be the next pope, but was not surprised at the speculation they could come from Latin America or Africa.
"The group of cardinals [who could become the next pope] has become increasingly international, which points to the fact the church is universal."
New Zealand's Cardinal Thomas Williams Archbishop emeritus of Wellington took part in the 2005 papal conclave that selected Pope Benedict but he has retired, and at 82 is too old to select the pope's successor.
The rules of the conclave were changed in 1975 to exclude all cardinals over the age of 80.
- © Fairfax NZ News