NEWS Pope Benedict XVI is to retire at the end of the month has sent shockwaves across South Yorkshire.
The head of the Catholic Church yesterday announced he plans to step down after eight years at the helm – a move which came as a surprise to his closest aides.
Pope Benedict’s decision to stand down is the first resignation for 600 years.
Aged 85, he believes he is too old to continue and plans to step aside on Thursday, February 28.
The Right Reverend Dr Steven Croft, Anglican Bishop of Sheffield, met the Pope in Rome in November last year.
He said: “I had the privilege of meeting Pope Benedict at the Synod of Bishops.
“He was present in the Synod most days and was so evidently held in high regard by all who attended.
“Pope Benedict will be greatly missed as he steps down, for his care and leadership of the Church.”
Father Christopher Posluszny, Dean at the Cathedral Church of St Marie in Sheffield, said: “I think everyone was a little shocked by the news, mainly because it is so long since it last happened.
“Perhaps he was facing a similar situation to Pope John Paul II, who had a very public illness and did not want that.
“I am sure there will be people who question it, but I think it was quite a courageous step for him.”
The Right Reverend Peter Burrows, Anglican Bishop of Doncaster, said: “Like many I was surprised to learn of it.
“I give thanks for his prayerful, spiritual and scholarly theological leadership.
“This is a courageous decision and I pray God will continue to bless him in his retirement.”
On the street, the news was met with mixed reaction from city residents.
Vicky Henton, 58, of Handsworth, said: “What a shock. I don’t really think he should be allowed to retire – he could have carried on.”
Albert Gray, 63, of Parson Cross, said: “I don’t think it means much to most English people. He isn’t breaking any rules. It’s been done before, even if it was 600 years ago.”