Pope has left a lasting legacy

By Amy McGillivray

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Pope Benedict XVI's resignation after nearly eight years in the role came as a huge surprise to many, but the Tauranga Roman Catholic community will remember him fondly.

Monsignor Frank Eggleton, leader of St Mary's Immaculate Catholic Church, said the news was unexpected as no Pope had resigned from the role in the past 600 years.

"I think it's a wonderful sign of the man's humility that he recognises that when you get to 85 you haven't got the energy that the job requires. He hasn't been looking well either.

"From our perspective he has done a superb job. His writings, his books and pastoral letters, have been so good for us. He'll be remembered for his teachings and just the way he was able to communicate."

Mr Eggleton said he would always remember the enthusiasm of young members of the Tauranga Catholic community when they returned from World Youth Day in Sydney in 2008 attended by Pope Benedict XVI.

"So many of our young people went and they were just inspired and they fell in love with him.

They just came back full of the inspiration that he was to them."

As for who his successor might be after he steps down at the end of the month: "Nobody will have a clue. I think it will be a surprise whoever it is," Mr Eggleton said.

"We just rely on God the Holy Spirit to be with the cardinals and we just rely on them to give us the right person for us and the world."

The church had the utmost respect and appreciation for Pope Benedict XVI but fresh blood would have its advantages, Mr Eggleton said.

"We're full of hope and it is important for us to have somebody at the top that is full of energy and challenge for us."

Aquinas College principal Ray Scott said it was an unusual step for the Pope to take but it was understandable in light of his ill health.

"I didn't know what to expect apart from that he was quite a conservative theologian. I think he's actually been a good presence. He's come across as a gentle and humble sort of person and obviously worked hard at the role."

Former Aquinas College student Victoria King, 21, who attended the World Youth Day in Sydney in 2008, said seeing Pope Benedict XVI in person for the first time was an awe-inspiring, "huge experience" she will never forget.

Ms King, who is studying towards a bachelor of science at Canterbury University, said she was surprised by the Pope's momentous decision.

"I feel a bit sad as he is a really good leader who relates well to all people no matter whether they're teenagers, young people or older people. I think he has done an amazing job and whoever is appointed the next Pope will have quite big boots to fill," she said.

Ms King said during Pope Benedict XVI's reign he has had to deal with some very challenging issues and being the spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Church is a very demanding commitment.

"Pope Benedict deserves a well-earned break," she said.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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