Monday's shock announcement by the Vatican that Pope Benedict XVI will resign 28 Feb will not throw the Catholic Church into crisis, according to the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria, Cardinal John Onaiyekan.
'There is no panic or crisis in the Church because of the Pope's decision to resign by Feb. 28. A successor will be announced soon,' Archbishop Onaiyekan, the highest ranking Catholic Clergy in Nigeria, told journalists.
He said the Pope's resignation, the first time a Pope has stepped down in over 600 years, was in line with the Canons and Laws of the Roman Catholic Church, hence did not constitute the onset of a crisis.
The Archbishop of Abuja urged all Catholic faithful to pray for the church and the outgoing Pope.
According to the Vatican, the 85-year-old Pope, who is the head of the 1 billion Catholic faithful in the world, is stepping down because of his failing health. Some 16% of the Catholic faithful are in sub-Saharan Africa.
'After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.
'However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.
'For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is,' the Vatican quoted the Pope to have said.