Reactions to pope's resignation mixed in Fay-West region
Citing advanced years and infirmity, Pope Benedict XVI shocked many Roman Catholics across the world Monday when he announced he was resigning on Feb. 28, making him the first pope to do so in almost 600 years.
The last pope to step down was Pope Gregory XII, who resigned in 1415 amidst a serious crisis of leadership that has been known since as the Great Western Schism.
Local Catholics were still absorbing the shock as the news reverberated everywhere.
“I'm shocked because I didn't even realize that a pope could resign,” Ruth May of Greensburg said. “I always thought that once you became pope, you were the pope until you died. I didn't think it was something you could choose not to do.”
Husband Greg May said he too was surprised, but will keep his faith in the decision.
“Obviously this was a huge and very difficult decision for him to make,” Greg May said. “We have to keep our faith in him that he is the only person who knows what is best for himself and the Church under his leadership, then move on from there.”
Pam Mondock of Mt. Pleasant is looking ahead to the new pope's reign, hoping that he will perhaps be more flexible in changing with the times, especially in the matter of divorce.
“I commend him for stepping down if he felt he was no longer able to carry out his duties, and I hope the next pope chosen will be more progressive in his thinking,” Mondock said. “I feel the Catholic Church has lost many members due to the fact they treat divorced people — at least this is my perception of it — as second-class citizens. I see many other denominations reach out to those folks, but not the Catholics. They still believe in annulment. To me, if you've been married and divorced, you bear the battle scars from such, therefore, you should not fill out some forms and make the marriage go away.”
Many others, like Marseda Wisilosky of Connellsville, respect the pope's decision and wish him well.
“I was shocked to hear the news this morning, but I totally respect our Holy Father's decision,” Wisilosky said. “I am sure he has labored and prayed very hard to do what is best for the Catholic Church. He is elderly and if it has become difficult for him to carry out his duties to his flock, then he is a wise man to have made this decision.
“God's richest blessings to him and the Cardinals who will be charged with deciding the next pope for the Catholic Church.”
“At the age of 85 he probably feels it is best for him and whole Catholic world,” Sherry Fleming of Mt. Pleasant said. “I am sure he finds it in his best interest to step away if he doesn't feel well. Maybe we will see our own Pittsburgh Bishop (David) Zubik play a new role! I hope he enjoys his retirement and enjoys many more years. At age 85, I would think you would like to relax and take it easy. I know I would.”
“I'm glad he did. At his age, he should resign,” Donald Ceroni of Mt. Pleasant said. “We need a younger person in who will be there for the longevity.”
Greensburg Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt released a statement on Monday addressing the resignation:
“While I am deeply saddened by the news of Pope Benedict's resignation, I am extremely grateful for his selfless service to the Catholic Church, especially over the past eight years as our Holy Father, the successor of St. Peter. Pope Benedict is a brilliant scholar and a holy priest and bishop. Raised in the midst of the horrors of Nazism and World War II, he has spent his life teaching the Word of God as the response to the evil, godless secularism he saw in Nazism and communism. He has always been focused on the eternal truths of the Gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and has constantly taught us about the dangers to our lives and souls posed by modern relativism and its child, which is secularism.
“I was blessed to meet and talk with Pope Benedict in December 2011 and hear him describe his initiatives in the New Evangelization and the Year of Faith, which he launched last October. These will be lasting gifts to the Catholic Church. We call on the Holy Spirit to guide its Church in the search for a successor, as we prayed nearly eight years ago when Blessed Pope John Paul II left us and Pope Benedict was called to lead us. And we pray that God continues to watch over Pope Benedict as he continues his post-retirement service to the Church.”
The Rev. Bob Lubic, with Connellsville's partner parishes, said he “applauds the bravery shown by His Holy Father in what can only be a difficult and sad time for him.”
“I believe that history will ultimately applaud Pope Benedict for his courage in taking such a virtually unprecedented step,” Lubic said. “It truly is an act of great humility to renounce such a position of absolute authority in the interest of the greater good.
“Clearly the pope realizes that it isn't ‘all about him.' I pray that the good Lord grants him the health to enjoy his remaining years in the pursuit of academic passions.”
Marilyn Forbes is a freelance writer.