Leading Catholics call for ailing Pope to resign

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The deteriorating condition of the Pope has caused a growing split among Britain's Catholics, with some of the most prominent figures in the church now openly calling for John Paul II to resign.

The deteriorating condition of the Pope has caused a growing split among Britain's Catholics, with some of the most prominent figures in the church now openly calling for John Paul II to resign.

Their concern is also understood to be shared at the very highest levels of the clerical establishment in this country as well as abroad. But traditionalists insist the Pope's visible suffering is "God's will" and resignation would tip the church into confusion.

Last week the Pope left hospital in Rome after a life-threatening episode, the result of his deteriorating Parkinson's disease. There were already serious doubts about his intellectual functioning, with many questioning his ability to lead a church of 1.1 billion.

But with John Paul II refusing to resign despite his worsening condition, even Vatican officials now fear an impending crisis: there are no procedures for running the church with a pontiff who is unable to take decisions.

Edward Stourton, the Catholic presenter of BBC Radio4's Today programme who is currently writing a biography of the Pope, says that "a lot of people think the church is treading water while he is still there".

Peter Stanford, the Catholic author, described the Pope's suffering in the role as "a form of crucifixion". He said: "Yet again the Catholic Church is flying in the face of science."

But many British Catholics insist the Pope knows best - partly because a retired pontiff would make life hard for his successor. Charles Moore, former editor of the Daily Telegraph, said: "It worsens the position of the next Pope."

Cristina Odone, writer and commentator, said: "This is not a good time for the leader of the church to step down. It would almost send out a message of failure."

Speculation about a successor is intensifying. Dionigi Tettamanzi, Archbishop of Genoa, is the favourite.

Comments