Abuja — The announcement by the Pope Benedict XVI to bow out on February 28, due to poor health came as a shock not only to Catholic Church, but to the entire Christendom. The Catholic Church in Nigeria insisted that there is no crisis in the church, as the action is backed by the Cannon law even as President Goodluck Jonathan hailed the pope's decision, saying he has demonstrated "exemplary wisdom and courage".
The Director of Communication, Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Rev Fr Raulph Madu who spoke to Vanguard, however, admonished Christians to pray fervently for the emergence of another God-fearing pope.
Madu said: "There is no crisis in the church. The Holy Father is expressing his freedom. The Cannon law which is the constitution of the church, Cannon 332 paragraph 2 gives the pontiff freedom to abdicate.
He added that "There is no vacuum, no confusion, no crisis, but it is a shock and surprise to us. It is what has happened many hundred years ago in the church, so people don't think of it. Our own generation has never seen a thing like that, so we cannot but see people shocked. But as I said there is no crisis in the church. It is just a call for people to pray for good and smooth transition".
Asked if any Nigerian would be qualified to be in the Conclave that will elect a new Pope, he said the archbishop emeritus of Lagos, Anthony Cardinal Okogie and the archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan will be the only two cardinals qualified to vote and be voted for.
According to him, the only people qualified to elect a new pope must be cardinals who are below the age of 80.
Also speaking in an interview, Lagos Archdiocesan director of Social Communications, Rev. Monsignor Gabriel Osu corroborated Madu's position, saying that there is no big deal for the Pope to resign and it will therefore be out of place for anybody to assume that it is a sign of schism in the church.
Rev Osu said: "The Pope enjoys the right to resign at any point in his reign if he chooses. He does not need the consent of the cardinals to do so," adding that everybody would have to now await the next move from the Vatican.
He added that there is "Roma locuta est, causa finita est" which means "Rome has spoken, case is closed," noting that there is no need for any panic in any quarters.
Similarly, the Methodist Church of Nigeria, threw its weight behind the pope, saying his resignation should serve as lesson to all leaders, adding it is always honourable to bow out, when the ovation is still loud.
The Prelate, Methodist Church of Nigeria, His eminence, Dr. Ola Makinde in a telephone interview with Vanguard described Pope Benedict XVI as a 'man of integrity, dependable man' who recognizes his health challenge and inability to cope with the responsibility of leadership.
Dr. Makinde said: "This is a good lesson from that papa. He is a man of integrity. He's bowing out when the ovation is loudest. He has made history and he has thought us, religious leaders, to know when the body is tired of work and to do honourable thing. He is a blessing to Christianity, and a blessing to Roman Catholic Church. So, I wish him all the best in the rest of his life".
There are rumours that the Pope's leadership of 1.2 billion Catholics has been beset by child sexual abuse crises that tarnished the Church, one address in which he upset Muslims and a scandal over the leaking of his private papers by his personal butler.
However, Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) debunked the rumours, saying that Pope Benedict XVI resigned on reasons of "old age and failing strength, and not for any particular kind of terminal illness, moral or legal guilt or political pressure".
The Pope was quoted as having expressed his desire to resign from the office of the Supreme Pontiff, as from 8.00 pm on 28th February.
According to Fr. Madu, "The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI is resigning for reasons of old age and failing strength, and not for any particular kind of terminal illness, moral or legal guilt or political pressure for that matter.
"You realize that Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Bishop of Rome by his Venerable Brother Cardinal Electors at the Conclave in Rome on the 16th of April, 2005 and he took the name Pope Benedict XVI at the age of 78.
"Before then he had worked in the Vatican Curia as the head of the strategic and tasking Congregation of Doctrine of Faith for 25 years during the Pontificate of his predecessor, Blessed Pope John Paul II.
"He is a man who has spent many tortuous years in the administration of the Church at very demanding levels.
"Therefore it is not strange that he should 'wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer'.
"We said that it is not strange because following the tenets of the laws and practices of the Catholic Church, Popes had resigned in the past.
"Pope Celestine V who died in 1296, had resigned two years earlier in 1294 and Pope Gregory XII also resigned in 1415.
"The current code of canon law promulgated in 1983 (canon 332 para. 2), also makes allowance for the resignation by the Roman Pontiff from the exercise of the Petrine ministry.
"That privilege is what the Holy Father has appropriated today.
That he has manifested in his statement which already available in all the social networks and from which I have also generously quoted.
"Therefore, the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, elected 16th and installed 19th April, 2005, has resigned from the office of the Pope, effective 20.00 hours 28th February, 2013.
"The Cardinal Electors will be invited to the Conclave in Rome at a later date in March to elect a successor. Please keep the Holy Father and the Church in your prayers during this period of transition".