Canberra's Deacon Matt Ransom (right) with Pope Benedict at World Youth Day in Sydney in August 2008.?
''Good on him'' was Canberra Catholic Deacon Matt Ransom's reaction when his wife interrupted his morning prayers to say Pope Benedict was to step down.
The CatholicLIFE worker, who assisted the pontiff at the first mass he celebrated on Australian soil during the 2008 World Youth Day visit, said Pope Benedict's decision made sense given his personal humility and respect for the high office he held.
''When I was with the Pope at Barangaroo [the World Youth Day site at Sydney's Darling Harbour], I was really struck by him,'' Mr Ransom told Fairfax Media. ''It wasn't because he was famous; it was because I felt I was in the presence of someone who was close to God. It was only for a fleeting moment but I wish it could have been for longer. I would really have liked to have the chance to talk to him.''
Matt Ransom. Photo: Melissa Adams
Mr Ransom, who was then working for the church in Cairns, had travelled to Sydney with 160 young people from North Queensland. He said the Pope had arrived at Barangaroo, where he was welcomed by 150,000 pilgrims, by boat.
Mr Ransom, who is also a teacher, recalls being stunned on discovering the role he would play during the Pope's visit to Sydney. ''I carried the Gospels, which had been handed to me by a group of Pacific Islanders, and presented them to his holiness,'' he said.
''It was a very heavy, metal-bound Bible and I remember wondering how he would cope with it. He was fine; maybe he works out in a gym at the Vatican.''
Mr Ransom, who saw the Pope for a second time when he travelled to Barcelona for World Youth Day in 2011, was impressed by the Catholic leader's obvious humility. ''He knew the power he had but was concerned to use it very wisely.''
Mr Ransom said he had thought of the pontiff and his advancing years while he was visiting an elderly uncle earlier this year.
''My uncle is 87,'' he said. ''He is winding down and reflecting on his life while the Pope, at 85, has an incredibly busy schedule and is dealing with some very ugly things. It may sound like a funny reaction but I felt happy for him. I will miss him [in the role] however; he is a great intellect, a very holy man and a wise decision maker.''
Mr Ransom recalls being touched by an event at the conclusion of the Sydney World Youth Day.
''There was a prayer vigil on the last night at Randwick,'' he said. ''There were 400,000 young people there and I was wondering how they would settle down and pay attention. Then the Pope came out and they all fell silent. He really does bring the presence of God and, as a teacher, I had to envy his crowd control. I wish I could do that with a year 10 class on a Friday afternoon.''