When Gippsland’s Catholic Bishop Christopher Prowse heard the news Pope Benedict XVI would resign later this month, he thought there had been a mistake.
“I was quite shocked and very much surprised; it’s very rare this kind of thing would happen in the Catholic Church,” Bishop Prowse said.
The 85 year-old pope announced on Tuesday he would be standing down from the church’s highest position after almost eight years in the role due to health reasons, becoming the first pope to resign before death in 600 years.
Bishop Prowse lauded Pope Benedict’s decision, adding it was a hallmark of a “very humble man”, devoid of egoism and any “self serving approach” which could raise his own personal profile.
“In the future people will look back on the decision with great admiration; one which will serve as a great example of the humility needed in leadership in today’s world,” Bishop Prowse said.
“Despite all the negative publicity surrounding the church at the moment, there is a real fascination out there among people, both in and out of the church, who can see the pope is one of few symbols of unity in a world so fragmented.”
Bishop Prowse said he had met a number of the 120 cardinal papal candidates in a trip to Rome last year, adding there were many worthy candidates who could take the church through the next generation.
“Whoever is going to become pope will need to be able to communicate effectively the church’s role in a media-centred world, and need fitness to visit global Catholic communities,” he said.