Bishop of Guildford welcomes Popeâ€™s â€˜radical actâ€™
The Bishop of Guildford the Rt Revd Christopher Hill has spoken of his respect for Pope Benedict XVIâ€™s decision to step down from his position at the head of the Roman Catholic Church later this month.
Bishop Christopher, who has worked closely with the Catholic Church and is Chairman of the Council for Christian Unity, said he felt the 85-year-oldâ€™s radical decision would leave a lasting legacy and subtly change the feel of the Papacy.
He said: â€œPope Benedictâ€™s surprise statement was a surprise but not a shock. Some years ago he had hinted that perhaps Popes ought to retire. Bishops, and even Cardinals, have a retirement age.
â€œHis final act, reviving the possibility of resignation by reason of age and capability, a possibility not exercised since 1415(!) is perhaps his most radical act, for it will arguably, subtly change the â€˜feelâ€™ of the Papacy of the future.
â€œThis is unlikely to be reversible by reason of the impossible workload of the Bishop of Rome as Primate for the universal Church, even if some of the more day to day matters are eventually properly left to others.
â€œAnglicans wish him well and respect his radical discernment to disregard precedent on the non-retirement of Popes. He has done this for the benefit of the Roman Catholic Church, but it will also be for the good of all the Christian Churches ecumenically and the wider global community in which the Bishop of Rome has an important role to play as personal, symbolic representative of Christianity.â€
He continued: â€œAll Christians ought to be thankful for Pope Benedictâ€™s courageous witness to faith, even if on some issues there is disagreement.
â€œIn spite of the â€˜choppy watersâ€™ at the time of the announcement of the former Anglican Ordinariate, Pope Benedict has regularly reiterated the main goal of unity between the Churches of the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church. This was most visibly and audibly done on more than one occasion during his successful visit to England in 2010, as witnessed in the moving joint Evening Prayer in Westminster Abbey celebrated by Pope Benedict and the then Archbishop of Canterbury.
â€œWe should also be grateful for his message to the wider British community on the occasion of that visit. Above all he reminded us of the Christian roots of our liberal democratic society.â€
Notes to editors: For the full version of Bishop Christopherâ€™s statement visit www.cofeguildford.org.uk