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South Woodford priest ‘surprised’ at resignation of Pope Benedict XVI

PUBLISHED: 10:50 18 February 2013 | UPDATED: 11:50 18 February 2013

A priest has said he is “surprised” at the sudden resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, but expects a new Pope to be in place by Easter.

Fr Francis Coveney said that the Pope had had a troubled time in office which, may have contributed to his decision to step down.

Fr Coveney, of St Anne Line, Grove Crescent, South Woodford, said: “I was very surprised – a Pope hasn’t resigned in about 600 years.

“He had to face some very difficult issues and probably didn’t want to step down when there was a big hiatus.”

Pope Benedict XVI is 85. His resignation means that the new process of selecting his successor has now been set in motion.

Fr Coveney said: “The Pope will go to his summer residence in the south of Rome and will stay there until the cardinals have elected a new Pope.”

Cardinals are usually bishops and are the most senior officials in the Church.

When a new Pope needs to be appointed they meet at the Vatican for the papal election known as conclave.

The term stems from Latin com which means room and clavis which means key as they are locked in a room until a decision is reached.

Fr Coveney added: “To be elected the one who’s chosen must have two-thirds of the votes plus one. I think there should be a new Pope by Easter and experts think we should have a replacement by the end of March.”

Voting takes place in the Sistine Chapel and once the process has started cardinals have to eat, vote and sleep within a designated area until a replacement is chosen.

The cardinals write the name of their person they wish to elect on a piece of paper which they then fold twice.

These are counted and if a majority has been reached they are burned to produce white smoke.

If the voting was indeterminate, the smoke will be grey.

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