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Surprise in south Bucks at Pope's resignation
CATHOLIC churches in south Bucks have reacted with surprise at the news the Pope is going to resign.
The Vatican announced today that Pope Benedict XVI is going to resign his office at the end of the month.
At 85, he said he feels too old to continue and he does not have the strength of body and mind to continue. He is the first pope to resign since 1415.
Father Willie Strain from Saint Augustine’s Church in Amersham Hill, High Wycombe said: “It is quite a surprise really but very understandable.
“He is doing it for the sake of the church. He has said himself his health has been deteriorating.”
He added: “You don’t expect the Vatican to prepare you for things like that. It wouldn’t have helped for people to know.”
Father Strain said he thought the Pope’s visit to England and Scotland in 2010 was a great success and the Pope brought a message of healing and love.
He added: “Popes don’t usually resign or retire. He is 85. He has done well to continue as well as he has.”
Bourne End St. Dunstan’s and Beaconsfield St. Teresa’s priest, Father Francis Higgins, said: “I was certainly surprised with the news, it’s quite unprecedented for at least 500 years.
“I think that my hope is that his health is ok and I will certainly pray for him at our next mass service at St. Dunstan’s and St. Teresa’s.
“I suppose until we know more clearly what it all really means, only having heard the news a few hours ago with a short statement, all we can really hope is to keep him in our prayers.”
Bourne End and Beaconsfield mass services attract around 700 followers between the two parishes every week.
However, Father Francis, who has been the priest there for the past eight years, has estimated the Catholic population for the area to be approximately 5,000.
Father John White from St Teresa's in Princes Risborough said it was not too much of a surprise to him.
He said: "A lot of people are quite shocked. It is the first time in modern years a Pope has resigned. It is at least 600 years since the last Pope resigned- people just aren't used to it.
"In recent months he looked much aged."
Father White said he thinks it is the right decision and two years ago the Pope told a German journalist if he did not think he was fit for the job he would resign.
He added: "I think his view is very much the Church does need strong leadership at this time. If he feels unable to do it himself rather than wait a number of years until his health deteriorates perhaps now is the better time to go."
Reverend Hugh Ellis from All Saints Church, High Wycombe, said the Pope would be remembered as a spiritual traditionalist who changed perceptions about him during his visit to the UK in 2010.
He said: “It is a courageous decision, it is surprising but it looks like an act of integrity and, when you consider his age and the pressures of being a church leader, an understandable one.
“He is a spiritual man, he clearly moved a lot of people on his recent visit and had a bigger impact than anyone had previously anticipated.”