Local Religious Leaders and Parishioners React to Pope Benedict Resignation
The 85-year-old pope's decision to step down surprised local clerics.
The Rev. Thomas Burke happened to be listening to the radio before morning Mass when he heard that Pope Benedict XVI was resigning
"I was very surprised," said Burke, pastor of St. James Parish in Sewickley, which has roughly 5,000 parishioners.
He wasn't alone. Cardinal Donald Wuerl said he was so surprised that he called Rome to confirm it.
Wuerl, now the archbishop of Washington, D.C., will be one of 120 cardinals to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI at a March conclave.
He said the announcement that the pope is resigning, effective Feb. 28, came as "very surprising news", according to KDKA.
The 85-year-old pope's decision surprised but drew praise from local clerics who said they view his decision as a courageous one.
"I really admire his humility," Burke said.
Zubik, who was assigned to Pittsburgh by Pope Benedict, said he is saddened by the news, but knows the pope would not come to that decision without a considerable amount of prayer, according to the Post-Gazette. The bishop added that he believes the resignation demonstrates the pope's love for the church.
Juanita Besong of Leet Township said she thinks the pope made the right decision as well.
"I know he was kind of ill and I think he feels that he can't do his job like he thinks he should," Besong said. "He just feels it's best for him to just give it up and let sb else take over.
Besong, a parishioner at Good Samaritan Church in Ambridge, said she's sure the decision didn't come easy.
"I think he was praying about it awhile and trying to do the best he can for his church and for his religion. He's doing everybody a greater service."
The Rev. Joseph R. McCaffrey, pastor of Sts. John & Paul Church in Franklin Park, said he was “very shocked” this morning when he received a text message about the pope's resignation. He also expressed support for the pope’s decision.
“I told the people in Mass this morning, I think it’s a wonderful thing the Holy Father recognized he wasn’t able to do the job and is stepping down,” McCaffrey said.
McCaffrey said he believes the timing is right because Pope Benedict is leaving at a time of excitement. This is “the Feast of Our Lord,” he said, the season of Lent leading to Easter and a time when all Christians come together to pray.
In the past, the conclave to determine a new leader was held because the pope died, but McCaffrey said this occasion is joyful in many ways.
McCaffrey said Sts. John & Paul Church will also have two connections to the college of cardinals who choose the pope's successor. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, Texas, offered spiritual direction to McCaffrey and is the priest who started Sts. John and Paul Parish.
McCaffrey said DiNardo also taught him in school, as did Cardinal Wuerl. McCaffrey was in the room for both Wuerl and DiNardo when the pope installed them. For several years, McCaffrey also worked as secretary for Wuerl when he was the bishop in Pittsburgh.
“I know both of them very well,” McCaffrey said.
Burke said it's neat to know that a few cardinals with ties to Pittsburgh will have a say in the matter. Burke was the assistant pastor at St. Paul Cathedral in Oakland when Pope Benedict was elected in 2005.
"It was an exciting time with a new pope," Burke said. "I grew up with Pope John Paul II all my life, so this was something different."
The Rev. Lou Vallone of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Crescent said he considers the pope's resignation to be an "act of courage."
"Our theology says we are a pilgrim people and we are always on the journey," Vallone said. "Every period of history has its own challenges, it's own accomplishments, and its own problems, and we believe the holy spirit will give us the proper person to guide us."
Already, speculation is growing about whom will replace Pope Benedict at the Vatican. Among the contenders is Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, who was elevated to cardinal last year.
The Papal Conclave could elect a new pope by mid-March.
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