ARCHBISHOP Mark Coleridge of Brisbane and Holy Spirit Provincial Seminary rector Monsignor Tony Randazzo have spoken of their awe at the courage of Pope Benedict’s decision to resign the papacy.
Archbishop Coleridge had only just returned from Rome and a meeting with Pope Benedict several days earlier when the news reached him at Brisbane Airport.
He told The Catholic Leader “not a whisper about the Pope’s resignation” had been heard while he was in Rome.
“On Thursday (February 7) I met the Holy Father and he seemed the same as usual – old but in quite good form,” he said.
Archbishop Coleridge contrasted the Pope’s decision with that of his predecessor’s.
“In John Paul II, we saw the courage of a man who refused to resign in the face of personal frailty and who lived his frailty for all the world to see,” he said.
“In Benedict XVI, we see the courage of a man who is prepared to resign, knowing that he no longer has the physical capacity to fulfil the role.”
Msgr Randazzo, as an official with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 2004 to 2008, worked alongside then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and for part of Benedict XVI’s papacy.
“I always knew him as a gentle man of great courage,” he said.
“But this act of his has taken my estimation of his courage to a whole new level.”
Neither Archbishop Coleridge nor Msgr Randazzo expressed total surprise at the Pope’s decision.
“(While in Rome) I had had a conversation over lunch about what might be done if a pope ever became incapacitated, because Church law currently makes no provision for that,” the Archbishop said.
“I had thought in the past that if any pope were likely to resign, it could be Pope Benedict.
“But I never really expected it to happen.”
Msgr Randazzo said: “I am not shocked, nor am I sad at the news in the same sense as if I woke up this morning and heard the Pope had died.
“My feeling is much more one of awe for his courage.
“It’s also awesome in the sense of witnessing the Holy Spirit moving in this decision.”
He said it was significant Pope Benedict had used both faith and reason to come to his decision to resign.
“The Holy Father has shown us how to put into practice Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason),” he said.
“Pope Benedict mentioned spending a lot of time searching his conscience, asking what God wanted of him and for His Church.
“He took the decision before God as an act of faith.
“At the same time he used his intellect to come to a decision.
“His decision reminds us that any ministry in the Church is not about the individual but about service given for the good of the Church.”
Archbishop Coleridge said the Church was “profoundly in debt to Pope Benedict for his generosity in accepting election in old age, his wisdom in exercising the Petrine ministry through the years and his courage in laying down the burden of office as he has”.
“His has been a long and amazing journey from young theologian at the Second Vatican Council to old pope returning now to his books full-time.
“Through it all Joseph Ratzinger has been a good and faithful servant of Christ: may the Lord Jesus reward him now and into eternity with the peace he has promised.”