New Zealand's Bishops have been stunned by news that Pope Benedict XVI is to resign from his papacy at the end of the month.
Archbishop of Wellington, Most Reverend John Dew said while it was "unusual" for the pontiff to step down - the first time it has happened in 600 years - he supported the Pope.
"While we are sad that his papacy is coming to an end, we understand the humility, prayer and reflection that will have been behind this decision to step down owing to frailty," said Archbishop Dew.
"We offer the Pope our assurance that we will continue to pray for him. We will also pray for our Cardinals who will, faithfully and prayerfully, elect a successor.
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"His resignation while unusual, does reflect the pace and workload that this special ministry requires, especially in our modern age."
Archbishop Dew said Benedict would be thought of as a Pope who was "faithful and humble" in his papacy and in his decision to step down when age and frailty meant he was unable to continue.
"As a great theologian and writer he has at times expressed his desire to spend more time writing and in study. We hope that he has the opportunity to do this in retirement and continue to make a valuable contribution in this way," he said.
"The Pope is the shepherd of the Church around the world. This is a demanding and challenging ministry. We pray at this time for Pope Benedict's successor and for the future of the Catholic Church and its leadership."