Catholics around the world — and at home — awoke to the news this morning that Pope Benedict XVI announced he is stepping down from his role as the spiritual leader of the Catholic church on Feb. 28 due of his health.
That makes him the first pontiff in more than 600 years to resign the post, rather than remaining in the role for his lifetime.
Yet, the pope gave reasons for retiring that many would think that, at age 85, make a lot of sense, including note of his advanced age.
“I do think it’s a good decision on the part of our Holy Father because of his failing health,” said Father Mike Drury of St. Luke’s Parish in Long Valley. “It took a lot of prayer and courage to make such a decision and I admire him for that.”
Pope Benedict, whose birth name is Joseph Ratzinger, succeeded Pope John Paul II in 2005.
Drury, along with clergy from other area churches said the announcement came as a surprise, and there was no previous inclination about the decision.
The pontiff’s legacy, while his time was short compared to his predecessor, will be a lasting one.
“I most saw him as someone who tried to correct the wrongs within the church and a person who lived in a simple and humble way,” said Pastor Joe Goode of Our Lady of the Mountain and St. Mark’s churches in Long Valley. “Before he was pope he lived in a Roman neighborhood among the people – I always thought that showed a very pastoral side of him.”
Goode said he believes Pope Benedict is dedicated to the church, thus making this the best decision for the body as a whole.
Clergy and parishioners alike agreed on the future of the church, having complete faith in the process that will anoint a new leader.
“As Catholics we believe that Jesus Christ gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide His Church on earth,” said Chester Councilwoman and St. Lawrence the Martyr parishioner Janet Hoven. “We believe the Spirit will guide through this, too.”
Drury echoed those sentiments, saying it was the church's faith that would guide the future.
“I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit guiding our church into the future,” Drury said. “This now becomes an opportunity for that Spirit to inspire us as we look to the future, not only for Catholics but for the entire Christian world. Let us pray together that our present Holy Father will have peaceful days to come and that the next Pope will inspire us and the world.”
How do you feel about the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI? What do you think it means for the Catholic Church?