The announcement by Pope Benedict XVI that he was stepping down as world leader of the Catholic Church came as a surprise to many people here, including church followers and the clergy.
“Let’s come together and pray for the Church,” said Rev. Father Achilleus T. Rwehumbiza of the Bukoba Diocese in northwestern Tanzania after getting the news on the Internet.
Given the limited communication technologies on the ground, the Pope’s resignation found officials of the Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC) unprepared for immediate reaction.
“We have just received the news and our leadership has not discussed the matter because the President of TEC is in Iringa (southern Tanzania). But, I hope after a while we shall issue a statement on this issue,” Father Anthony Makundi, TEC Secretary General, told PANA.
“It has taken us unawares and I hope the Vatican will explain the reason behind the Pope’s decision,” said Renatus Karumuna, a Catholic priest stationed in the Longido district of northern Tanzania, told PANA.
But after reading to him the full text of the Pope’s declaration, Karumuna expressed relief saying: “With this kind of approach, it will give way to his successor to relinquish the ministry in case of incapability or old age and let a new Supreme Pontiff be elected to face the challenges of heading the Church.”
Meanwhile, lay people also expressed similar feelings about the event.
“I suppose the subject should be ‘Pope’s retirement not resignation’. Resignation is somehow disturbing,” said Abraham Byamungu.
Enock Kamuzora, a retired academic, said that what the Pope has done, though unusual, is provided for in Canon 332 of the Code of Canon Law. There are several papal abdications in the history of the Catholic Church.
“That notwithstanding, the news is indeed earth-shattering,” Kamuzora added.