Malawi Catholic bishops, politicians pay tribute to outgoing Pope

The Malawi Catholic Bishops and political leaders have paid tribute to the outgoing Pope Benedict XVI, after the pontiff’s unexpected decision to resign on health grounds.

The body of bishops Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) hailed Pope Benedict XVI for his effortS in spearheading the move towards the return of what they call original Catholic faith as was being practiced during days of apostles.

The 85-year-old pontiff said he is losing physical and mental strength to carry on with his duties. He will be the first pope to resign from his post in almost 600 years.

“We will miss him,” said Secretary General of ECM, Father George Buleya.

Pontiff says his age means he lacks strength to do job
Pontiff says his age means he lacks strength to do job

“He has been a great pastor and personally he has spearheaded a move towards return to our faith and that’s why this year will be celebrating the year of faith,” Father Buleya added.

Buleya said during his ministry Pope Benedict has been revamping the catholic faith and took it to its original faith of the days of the apostles and renew the Catholic Church in the whole world.

Leader of Government in Parliament, Henry Phoya a Church going Catholic said the Holy Father’s decision to quit is “a brave one” considering that so many political leaders cling to their positions while aged and frail.

Opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) organizing secretary Lilian Patel, a devout Catholic said the Pope would be missed by millions.

“We are saddened with the decision by Pope Benedict XVI to resign,” she said.

Patel said the choice of a successor is clearly an important one for the Catholic Church.

Former governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesman Nicholous Dausi who is also a Catholic said Pope Benedict XVI will be “missed” by many for his great spiritual depth.

“It was with a heavy heart but complete understanding that we learned the Pope has resigned.

According to the Vatican a new Pope is expected to be elected before Easter, which this year falls on March 31.

There are several contenders, but no obvious front-runner — the same situation when Pope Benedict was elected in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II.

Meanwhile Papal watchers are suggesting that two African Cardinals could be top contenders to succeed Pope Benedict.

Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria who is nearly 80 years old is cited as the favorite. He was considered a top contender in 2005, when Benedict was elected, and now he has Pope Benedict’s old job within the Vatican.

Another one is the 64 year old Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana.

Vatican experts argued that vision, rather than geography, would likely determine who would replace Benedict, and that the ability to communicate with a distracted world would be high on the list of desirable qualities.

The news of the Popes resignation had taken the world by surprise. A Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said that even Pope Benedict’s closest aides did not know what he was planning to do and were left “incredulous”

But international media reports show that Pope’s elder brother George and his private secretary, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, were probably the only people to know in advance about Joseph Ratzinger’s long-pondered decision to step down from the papacy.

However they say the signs were there for anyone to read as for the first time in decades no papal travel plans had been announced for 2013.

Visitors to the Vatican had noticed his weakened voice. He sometimes uses a cane to walk, and has cut back of all his public engagements.

The 2013 Easter vigil mass, perhaps the most important liturgy of the year, usually celebrated at midnight had been scheduled for early evening this year, to allow the Pope to retire well before midnight.

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