John Key is shocked by the Pope's resignation, describing the
move by the 85-year-old as a "brave call".
Pope Benedict XVI has declared he lacked strength of mind and
body to continue as head of the Catholic Church worldwide,
and will step down on February 28 - becoming the first
pontiff to do so in 600 years.
"This is a position where people normally carry on for all of
their natural life once they've been appointed to being the
pope, so it's a very surprising move," said John Key told
"He obviously feels the great burden and responsibility of
leading the Catholic Church and maybe just feels his health
isn't allowing him to discharge his responsibilities
adequately and at the level he would want," he said.
The Pope made the announcement during a meeting of Vatican
"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 the demands of being
the Pope, he told the cardinals.
His unexpected announcement has shocked Catholics around the
Catholic Church spokeswoman in New Zealand, Dame Lyndsay
Freer, described the Pope's schedule as "punishing".
"We will miss Benedict because he was a man with a big heart
and a very loving, humble personality and a great intellect,"
"But I think the church goes on and Benedict will leave a
great legacy, a different legacy from his predecessor, and
the next pope will leave a different one again. We just know
it will be business as usual once this all gets settled."
The cardinals will be assembling in Rome ahead of a mid-March
conclave to elect a new pope, Dame Lyndsay told Firstline.
The process involves secret ballots until they reach a
consensus, and a new leader is expected by Easter.