Local Catholic leaders were surprised by the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI on Monday morning, but also called it a “powerful move” of strength by the pope for the church.
Father Mike Caridi, pastor of St. Louise de Marillac Catholic Church, said he found out about the new through an early-morning text message from his friend, Bishop Thomas Tobin, from Providence, RI.
"As some time has passed since Pope Benedict’s stunning announcement, the original jolt I experienced is giving way to some other, more positive, feelings," he stated. "I am grateful for the courage and selflessness he is displaying in candidly admitting that he no longer has what it takes to assume the duties that the papacy requires. It’s hard to let go of power and only those who love deeply are able to do so."
Sister Barbara Anne Quinn, principal of Holy Child Catholic School in Bridgeville, said she thinks the decision had to be a difficult one, but was in the best interest of the church.
“To me, I was surprised given the fact that it hasn’t happened in 600 years,” she said. “I think it shows a very spiritual person who recognizes what was needed and doing what (he thinks is best).”
The fact that is hasn’t happened since the 15th century is mind-boggling, she said, although it shows the church is not “stuck in a mold.”
“It was a very powerful move and shows that the church is alive,” Sister Quinn said. “I think it says something for the whole process that the church isn’t stuck in a mold.”
The Rev. Jay Donahue, pastor of Sts. Simon & Jude Church in Scott Township, suspects Pope Benedict looked back at the last years of Pope John Paul II’s lengthy tenure and decided it was not in the church’s best interest for him to remain.
“I think the pope is setting a startling example of humility,” he said. “Here he is leading the world’s biggest church, and he looks at his own physicality and says he’s not up to it anymore. So many people want to be leaders, and he’s saying he needs to step down.”
Rev. Donahue also posted a formal statement on the church's website about the pope's decision. Click here to read the full statement on Sts. Simon & Jude's website.
According to the AP, the 85-year-old pontiff announced his decision in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals Monday morning, citing his "advanced age and diminishing strength." The pope, leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics worldwide, emphasized that the duties require "both strength of mind and body." Born Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI was chosen in 2005 at 78 to succeed the late Pope John Paul II.
“It tells us that God is leading all of us what we feel is best for our ministries,” Sister Quinn said. “It surely took a lot prayer to come to that decision. It’s truly amazing and certainly we wish the best for him and the cardinals who will be selecting (the next pope).”
A conclave could elect a new pope by mid-March, the AP reports.
"It caught everybody off guard," Diocese of Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "There is a certain sadness I feel because of his resignation. I do admire him. I admire the teaching that he shared so much with the church. I think he wouldn't come to a decision that was as important as this one without a considerable amount of prayer. He wants only the very best for the church and would submit his resignation based on his love for the church."
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