RIO DE JANEIRO—Brazilian Catholic bishops on Monday hailed the “humility and greatness” of Pope Benedict XVI on learning of his imminent resignation due to old age.
“We greet with filial love the reasons given by his holiness, sign of the humility and greatness which characterized the eight years of his pontificate,” they said in a statement.
The German-born leader of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics announced earlier Monday that he would resign on February 28 due to old age, after just eight years as pope, one of the shortest pontificates in modern history.
The Rio archdiocese, meanwhile, said the Catholic World Youth Day festival would take place here in July as scheduled despite the papal announcement.
“WYD will be maintained. The resignation of the pope changes nothing,” Adionel da Cunha, a spokesman for the archdiocese said.
Rio Archbishop Orani Tempesta also confirmed that the event was still on and that Benedict XVI’s successor would attend.
“We do not anticipate an absence of the pope. It’s a tradition to have the pope,” the G1 news website quoted him as saying.
An estimated two million youths from around the world are expected to attend the event, slated for July 23-28.
It will be the second time that the youth festival is held in Latin America, after Buenos Aires in 1987.
Brazil has an estimated 125 million Catholics, and is the largest mostly Roman Catholic country in the world.
Darci Nicioli, the auxiliary bishop of the Sao Paulo pilgrimage city of Aparecida, said the papal decision was in line with canon law.
“We accept it with pain,” he added.
Aparecida is home to Our Lady of Aparecida, a venerated clay statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the main patroness of Brazil.
Nicioli said several Brazilian cardinals could become the next pope.
They include Raymundo Damasceno, the current Aparecida archbishop and president of the National Conference of Brazilian bishops; Claudio Hummes; and Odilo Scherer, the German-Brazilian archbishop of Sao Paulo who is said to be close to Benedict XVI.