THE decision by Pope Benedict XVI to resign as head of the billion-strong Roman Catholic Church has caused shockwaves around Merseyside and the rest of the world.
The Vatican announced the 85-year-old Pontiff was standing down from the post in just over a fortnight’s time on February 28 – the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years.
A statement said the pope, who has appeared increasingly frail, was unable to continue in office due to his age and diminishing strength and the papacy will remain vacant until a successor is elected.
The shock decision sets the stage for a conclave to elect a new pope before the end of March.
Retired auxiliary (assistant) bishop Vincent Malone, who has been a priest for 57 years – all of them with the Archdiocese of Liverpool – said he was “taken by surprise” by the pope’s announcement.
He said: “I think he’s been very noble to continue as long as he has.
“He must indeed be fairly tired by now.
“He’s been a man of immense integrity with his intellectual and linguistic skills and pastoral care.”