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The shock resignation of Pope Benedict will have little immediate effect on Taranaki's Catholics, church leaders say.
In the announcement read to cardinals in Latin, the German-born pope, 85, said he no longer had the mental and physical strength to run the Roman Catholic Church.
It's the first time in 600 years a pope has resigned from his papacy.
Father Craig Butler, of St Joseph's Parish in New Plymouth, said he was surprised and intrigued by the news.
"Most people are well retired by 85," he said.
"I'm sure it's something he would have worked through and prayed about so I admire him for making the decision. He's a remarkable man, he's one of the most informed leaders on the planet."
Father Tom Lawn was also surprised but said resignation was always a possibility.
"I thought ‘That poor old bloke having to think all that through', it would have been hard," Father Lawn said.
"It has always been an option to resign but it's not the traditional thing to do," he said.
"I know most priests like to carry on as long as they can and he [Pope Benedict] would see it as his ministry."
Father Butler said church life would continue as normal in the coming weeks.
"I don't think it will stop too many people in Taranaki," he said.
"It's not like he is from New Zealand."
However, a new pope who could be elected as soon as Palm Sunday and be ready to take over by Easter, could eventually have a huge effect on the local church.
"The retirement won't have much of an effect but the election of a new pope could have a tremendous one," Father Lawn said.
"He may have a new direction and that would affect us locally. It goes pope, bishop, local church so it doesn't take long to get to us," he said.
Father Butler said the Catholic church was like any other organisation and relied on the Pope to shape its direction.
"The Pope is the spiritual leader and he has a significant effect on the life of the community."
Parishioners would continue to pray for the Pope, as they did every Sunday, but no special services have been planned yet, Mr Lawn said.
"We pray for the Pope on Sunday, some of us daily, and when the new one is elected their name will be there."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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