Father Ed Tomlinson , parish priest at St Anselm Catholic Church in Pembury
"IN 2009 POPE Benedict went out of his way to pray at the tomb of St. Celestine V, the first Pope to abdicate on grounds of ill health. Nobody pondered the significance of this resulting in shock at news of his own abdication.
This was a carefully planned move from the most formidable mind to have occupied the throne of St. Peter. Benedict is re-igniting tradition for future frail pontiffs – a final gift from one who witnessed the heroic struggle of the late Pope John Paul II.
Pope Benedict leaves office an outstanding theologian who set in motion the 'new evangelisation'; a better translation of the Mass and more faithful reflection of Vatican II. His passion for unity was seen in his establishing of the Ordinariates which he personally financed – structures allowing non-Catholics to convert en masse while retaining their leaders, culture and identity. This inspired my own family, with 72 of my former Anglican congregation, to step out in faith and be reconciled with the Holy See. We are 'Benedict's babies' and will miss him dearly."
Rev Douglas Wren , President of Christians Together in Tunbridge Wells and Rector of the United Parish of Speldhurst with Groombridge and Ashurst
"I DON'T know if a Pope has ever visited Tunbridge Wells and I doubt that the next one will. What I am certain of is the strong relationship between Roman Catholics and other Christians in our town.
Big projects such as Street Pastors and the current Night Shelter draw their hundreds of volunteers from over 20 different congregations across the range of expressions of Christianity, including our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters. In our parish I know of several people who attend Mass and also belong to our Church of England Home Groups or other village-based Christian activities. This relationship is one of the joys of the modern Christian community and I look forward to the next Pope doing all that he can to strengthen it.
Christianity can get big headlines but it is at the grassroots that we are working together to show God's love in the world."
Father Leo Mooney , parish priest at St Dunstan's Catholic Church
"I AM saddened Pope Benedict had to retire. But given his state of health, which he recognised, his decision was inevitable. He had a stroke before and after he became Pope. He noticed the rapid decline in his health over the past five weeks. As he put it, he "lacked the strength of mind and body" to carry on. After examining his conscience, he made his decision for the good of the Church. He had seen his predecessor, John Paul II, become completely incapacitated and still struggling on. He did not want to foist that on the Church. I knew him as a very gentle, shy, courteous and compassionate gentleman; a brilliant theologian and an Anglophile. This all shone through during his state visit to Britain in 2010.
His successor? I wait to be surprised by the Holy Spirit whom I would not dare to second guess."
The Rev George Pitcher , who lives in Heathfield, is an Anglican priest and former press secretary to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams
"BENEDICT'S abdication raises huge problems for the Vatican. How can a Pope have absolute authority while his predecessor in apostolic succession is still alive? It all points to the impossible nature of papacy in the 21st century. There is now a massive opportunity for reform of Roman Catholicism. The Vatican mustn't squander it."