Rotorua Catholic leader Patrick Walsh describes Pope Benedict XVI's resignation as a brave move.
Pope Benedict XVI has resigned declaring he lacked strength of mind and body to continue as head of the Catholic Church worldwide. He will step down on February 28 - becoming the first pontiff to do so in 600 years.
Pope Benedict XVI made the announcement during a meeting of Vatican cardinals.
Mr Walsh, who is principal of Catholic school John Paul College, said he was shocked when he learned of the resignation yesterday morning. In the morning, the school had a prayer for the Pope, the church and cardinals who would have to choose a successor.
"It comes as a complete surprise," Mr Walsh said.
Mr Walsh described the move by Pope Benedict XVI as "very brave" considering he acknowledged he was physically and mentally unable to lead the church. "I think that is a pretty good thing for him to do really, it's an important decision."
While he said it was up to the cardinals to select a new leader, he said it would be good to look outside Europe given how much the Catholic church had grown.
"I think Pope Benedict has been a very good leader. He has made strong connections," Mr Walsh said.