12 Feb 2013

Bishop welcomes new era for Catholic Church

9:05 pm on 12 February 2013

Catholics in New Zealand say they are surprised by the decision of Pope Benedict XVI to stand down, but hope it means a younger leader will take on the role.

The 85-year-old German-born pontiff made the surprise announcement in a speech in Latin on Monday that he is stepping down on 28 February as leader of the world's 1.2 Catholics, saying he no longer has the mental and physical strength to cope with the demands of his ministry.

Catholic leaders in New Zealand say rather than bringing uncertainty, the move will mean excitement about the future of the church, which has been rocked by recent abuse scandals.

The Bishop of Auckland says Benedict's resignation marks the end of an era and the start of a new phase in the history of the modern church.

Patrick Dunn says there is an expectation that the next Pope may well be someone younger, not from Europe, and who has had a positive experience as a pastor as well as a good mind.

Bishop Dunn says there is no direct New Zealand involvement in the selection and the Vatican expects the new Pope will elected before Easter.

Dame Lyndsay Freer, a spokesperson for the Catholic Church in Auckland, says the Pope's resignation shows humility and a deep respect for the papacy.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key says the news of Benedict's resignation will come as a shock to Catholics around the world, but the Pope obviously feels his health won't allow him to carry out duties effectively.