As European front pages deliberated on Pope Benedict XVI’s historic decision to resign, Vatican officials were keen to play down the impact on the Catholic Church.
The election of a new pope is not likely until just before Easter, which means several weeks of uncertainty in a church already rocked by internal tensions.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said there was no prospect of divisions, telling a news conference: “We have no fears of this kind.”
He added that the Pope will “not intervene in any way” in the election of his successor and the Cardinals will be entirely “autonomous” in their decision.
The spokesman confirmed that the Pope will have no role in the running of the church after his resignation.
On Tuesday morning at St Peters Church in Rome, several pilgrims hoped that the church could quickly get back to business as usual.
One man said: “Soon there will be a new Pope and we’ll be here to celebrate, without forgetting Benedict who has been a great Pope despite the difficult times he’s had to deal with.”
Thousands of kilometres from the Holy See, Catholics in the Philippines were still digesting the news that Benedict XVI had become the first Pope in six centuries to stand down.
“It’s about time. He needs rest; he has done a lot. Besides, it is a big humility on his part to leave such a big responsibility in leading all the Catholics around the world,” said one church-goer.
Benedict XVI will step down on February 28th and is due to spend time at the Pope’s summer residence near Rome before spending his final years in a Vatican convent.