Catholics hail Benedict
As Catholics throughout the country digest the unexpected news the Pope is to resign due to ill health, the South Canterbury faithful are philosophical and do not anticipate any dramatic changes.
Pope Benedict XVI, 85, recently started using a walking stick and a wheeled platform to move down the aisle in St Peter's Square but did not make public his desire to retire until yesterday. He was the first German pope for 1000 years and is the first pope to resign in 600 years.
Holy Family Parish priest Father Brian Fennessey was surprised because the previous pope, John Paul II, had suffered from Parkinson's disease and continued in the role until his death in 2005.
"Pope Benedict is a different person ... he has made a courageous decision.
"I think he has personal insight that he is unable to be as effective as he would want to be. I like Pope Benedict. He was very pastoral and gentle, though a very strong theologian."
Vicar general of the Christchurch diocese Father Rick Loughnan, speaking on behalf of Bishop Barry Jones, thought many followers would be delighted that the Pope felt he could resign.
Timaru Catholics spoken to said they were shocked or surprised.
St Thomas Church pastoral assistant Pauline Berry thought Pope Benedict had done well in his role.
"Whether it is time in history for a more liberal pope, I don't know."
Other parishioners said they would pray for the selection, which involves the college of cardinals in conclave (confidential meeting).
Neither clergy spoken to nor most local school principals feared the impact of any new liberal pope on the church or on education.
Roncalli deputy principal Andrew Jones said it was too early to tell what impact the Pope's resignation would have on the school, while Sacred Heart Primary School principal David Armstrong could not imagine any pope being appointed who had such radical views that it would trickle down to the education sector.
Because changes in the church are well considered St Joseph's School principal Carmel Brosnahan-Pye said Catholic theology would remain the same and saw the role of schools bringing students to a relationship with God continuing.
Whoever becomes the next pope will not be influenced by New Zealand because Cardinal Tom Williams is over 80 and too old to vote.
The number of people who attend mass on average each Sunday in South Canterbury.
According to the last census in 2006 there were 7880 people who called themselves Catholics in South Canterbury and 508,000 nationally.
- © Fairfax NZ News