THE decision by Pope Benedict XV1 to resign has been hailed as “courageous” by a South Tyneside churchman.
The 85-year-old pontiff, who is in poor health, shocked Catholics when he announced yesterday that he would step down.
Father Martin Stempczyk, parish priest of St Bede’s RC Church and St Joseph’s RC Church, both in Jarrow, said: “I think it’s a very courageous move.
“I think he deserves all credit for making this decision at the age of 85.”
Bishop Seamus Cunningham, head of the Catholic Hexham and Newcastle Diocese, which covers South Tyneside, said the resignation announcement had come “as a bolt out of the blue.”
He said: “The Pope has become increasingly aware of his own frailty over recent months, but it takes great courage and humility for anyone to recognise that they can no longer work as effectively as they once could.”
“The Pope has made this brave decision after prayer and reflection; no doubt he has agonised over it, and yet those closest to him say that he retains his serenity and thank God for that.”