Representatives from Scarborough’s Catholic schools and churches have given their reaction to news that Pope Benedict XV1 has decided to step down.
The Pope said on Monday he would resign after nearly eight years as the head of the Catholic Church because he was too old to continue at the age of 85.
Following what has been the first papal resignation in nearly 600 years, the Vatican now says it expects a new pontiff to be elected before Easter.
Father William Massie, of St Peter’s Church in Castle Road, said: “My own reaction was initially one of shock, but not surprise.
“He had spoken two years ago about the circumstances when a Pope might retire due to frailty. However, this is a very rare event.”
Father William said that Pope Benedict’s decision highlights the fact that people are living longer than ever and that the papal role is a highly demanding one.
He said: “It’s a very modern Pope who would decide to break with the precedent of centuries. It’s a bold move.”
Father William also paid tribute to the pontiff, saying: “He is probably the most brilliant theologian alive today.
“To have him as head of the church for eight years has been wonderful.”
Denise McGroarty, deputy headteacher at St George’s RC School, said: “The news took everyone by surprise but having had time to think about it we feel that the Pope has taken a courageous step.
“By allowing the church to choose a new leader he is putting the needs of the church before himself. In his role as Pope over the last few years, he will have gained a very deep insight into the problems and challenges of the modern world and in spite of his great age he is very forward-looking and able to consider the needs of the church for the future.”
Paula Strudwick, associate headteacher at St Augustine’s School, said: “This has given us an opportunity to let the students be very aware of the global nature of the Catholic church.
“Once a new Pope is elected there will be great celebration and a sense of the church renewing itself. I hope a new leader can bring new energy to the role.”