AS news of the Pope’s resignation spread across the world this week, the shock announcement was also felt here in Mansfield’s Catholic community.
With a strong following of the Catholic Church across the district, centred around St Philip Neri Church on Chesterfield Road South, itspriest and parisioners were said to be shocked and surprised as events unfolded..
“We were in total shock when we passed a newspaper seller and saw the headlines,” said parishioner John Fitzpatrick of Chatsworth Drive who happened to be in Ireland when the news broke. “We just couldn’t take it in as it is unheard of.”
Pope Benedict XVI has served as head of the Catholic Church for eight years saying he is too old to continue at the age of 85.
It is the first papal resignation for 600 years and has surprised church and world leaders as well as millions of Catholic followers.
“My opinion of Pope Benedict has gone up because resigning is a very courageous move,” added Mr Fitzpatrick.
“He has put his personal ambitions and ego to one side to let someone younger and more physically able to step into the role.”
It was hoped by many Catholics that this Pope would be a more liberal leader but this wasn’t the case.
“I have been less than enamoured by him as I hoped he would be a more moderate pontiff,” added Mr Fitzpatrick. “There is a dire shortage of priests worldwide, including here in the Mansfield district, and it was hoped that if the church allowed priests to marry, this problem would be solved. Many areas now have to share a priest but some might say this strengthens the parish as the community come together.”
The Vatican expects to appoint a new Pope before Easter with suggestions that it could be time for a change from the European preference to be replaced with a candidate from Africa or Latin America which hosts the biggest Catholic population.