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Chance for Church to renew itself.

THE Pope's decision to step down has shocked the world and has even taken senior Church figures by surprise.

Such is the public's view of the Vatican their immediate response was to enquire about scandal and not of Benedict's failing health.

After the revelations and cover-ups, it is not surprising the decision is viewed with suspicion.

The Vatican has been embroiled in huge controversies in recent years, including the cover-up of widespread sex abuse.

In the weeks before Christmas the Bank of Italy withdrew credit facilities amid allegations the Papal state was involved in money laundering.

So it is understandable the public thinks the worst when the Pope quits suddenly. Unfortunately, Benedict has done little to change the Vatican's tarnished image.

Relations between this country and the Holy See have deteriorated and have not been helped by the attitude of the Pope and his advisors.

The Taoiseach and Tanaiste both praised the outgoing Pontiff but the fact is relations remain strained and the Vatican embassy stays closed.

On a human level, few would begrudge Benedict his well-earned retirement.

There is every reason to believe Joseph Ratzinger never wanted to become Pontiff and would have been content to retire if he had not been elected on the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005.

While Ireland is still overwhelmingly Catholic, the majority of those who profess that faith no longer blindly follow Vatican diktats. They will hope the next holder of the office will be a good and wise man who will renew the Church.

But in any case most ordinary Catholics will continue to do what is good and what is right - regardless of the Vatican.
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 12, 2013
Words:277
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