Father Faherty pays tribute to Pope Benedict XVI.
ST Michael’s Parish priest in Nowra, Father Pat Faherty, said Benedict XVI would be remembered as a gentle Pope but very scholarly.
Catholics across the country and around the world were surprised by the Pope’s resignation during a meeting of Vatican cardinals on Monday morning.
The 85-year-old, who has been head of the Catholic Church for eight years, announced his decision to step down, saying age prevented him from carrying out his duties.
He said his advanced age and the pace of change in the modern world had left him unable to “adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me”.
“I’m not really surprised. Honestly, I hoped he would be a Pope who would resign when he was not physically able to cope,” Father Faherty said.
“He was very close to his predecessor Pope John Paul II and he was very feeble for a number of years and I think he saw that as a lesson to him – there comes a point when he even a Pope should retire.
“He is also a very practical man, very scholarly and in touch with the world of our time and he needs to be physically and mentally able to cope with the role.”
He will officially resign on February 28, making him the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years.
The last Pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415 in a deal to end the Great Western Schism among competing papal claimants.
“A Pope resigning has happened a few times in the history of the church, on at least four occasions, mind you the last was a long time ago,” Father Faherty said.
“It is very rare but we must also remember that Pope Benedict is the 265th Pope so there is a lot of history there.”
After February 28 a senior cardinal will take over until the conclave anoints a successor.
“I have a feeling they will try to have a new Pope in place before Easter,” Father Faherty said.
“But I have no idea who the next Pope will be.
“There is an old saying – those who go in as a Pope come out as cardinals; in other words it is always hard to predict.”
Father Faherty said Pope Benedict will be remembered as a gentle Pope but very scholarly.
“He will be remembered for his first encyclical letter,” he said.
“Aware of the conflict around the world and that religion is often seen as a sign or source of conflict, or perceived that way, his first letter was essentially the gospel that God is love.
“He was a very gentle Pope and very scholarly, but simple in his writings.
“He had a great desire to get Christians united, especially in Europe, and he thought a lot of energy was wasted on division.”
Pope Benedict will have no official role in choosing his successor, and is expected to retire to the papal residence at Castel Gandolfo.