THE abdication of Pope Benedict XVI, announced on Monday, left
scores of English-speaking Roman Catholic seminarians in Rome
"gobsmacked" and "saddened".
Many of those who had attended vespers at the end of the Week of
Prayer for Christian Unity, in St Paul's Basilica, on 25 January,
where the Pope had presided, said that they were not surprised.
"The Pope looked really frail - a dreadful colour," one
seminarian said on Tuesday.
The Archbishop of Canterbury's representative to the Holy See,
Canon David Richardson, who is to retire at Easter, said that the
abdication was an act of courage.
"I am very confident and encouraged by the Holy Father, who has
taken the bull by the horns and said 'I am stepping down.' It was
an extremely courageous and grace-filled thing to do.
"But it is also good news, and healthy to realise that a piece
of canon law that is 700 years old can be used like this."
Canon Richardson said that it might be better for the Church if
the new pope were not a scholar. Having two scholars in Canterbury
and Rome - Lord Williams and Pope Benedict - had not produced the
results for which people had hoped. "There is a need for strong
spiritual leadership; the other things will fall into place."
He hoped that the new pope would be "simpatico" with
the new Archbishop of Canterbury. "We can't expect that they will
repeat the spark that existed between Archbishop Rowan and Pope
Benedict; but a shared vision is important. I hope he will see the
importance of healing the wounds of the Church, both East and West.
My reading is that the desire for unity with the East has taken
precedence in recent history."
Mgr Peter Verity, the spiritual director at the Beda College in
Rome, which trains older English-speaking seminarians, said: "I
think Pope Benedict has set a precedent. I think we won't get any
really old men again. And I think that that is common sense. . .
It's the action of a very modern pope."
The new pope must reform the Curia "root and branch", he said.
"People have had expectations that many of the popes will continue
where their predecessor was, but actually there are usually some