MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Church leaders in the Philippines, Asia's largest Roman Catholic nation, say they are surprised at Pope Benedict XVI's decision to resign but praised his honesty and prayed for an orderly succession.
Fr. Francis Lucas of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines said Tuesday that bishops and priests received news of the pope's decision with "shock and dismay" but praised his humility for acknowledging he no longer is physically able to handle the papacy.
Lucas says there have been calls for the next pope to be chosen among cardinals from Asia, Africa or Latin America and asked Filipinos to pray "for the Holy Spirit to continue to guide ... our cardinals" in picking a pontiff.
Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle also sought prayers for a smooth succession.