- Sections :
- Crime & Public Safety
- Local Area
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Texas -- The media communications world was abuzz early Monday morning, February 11, when the Vatican dispatched a press release saying that Pope Benedict XVI has announced his resignation effective February 28.
Citing advanced years and infirmity, the Pope becomes the first to resign in six centuries. The last pope to resign was Gregory XII, who quit in 1415 after just after a decade, amid a civil war in the Catholic church that became known as the Great Western Schism.
The 85-year-old pope made the announcement in Latin, during a meeting of the Vatican cardinals, surprising even his closest confidants. Members of the Catholic Church worldwide, were stunned by the news as it was relayed in seven languages around the globe.
Born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, on April 16,1927,Benedict was ordained, along with his brother, in 1951. After spending several years teaching theology in Germany, he was appointed bishop of Munich in 1977, and elevated to cardinal after just three months by Pope Paul VI. Later Pope John Paul II named him leader of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1981. Following John Paul’s death in 2005, he was elected the 265th pope at age 78, on April 19, in one of the fastest conclaves in history; less than a day after the voting began. Benedict served longer as a cardinal than most of the popes, and is the oldest person to have been elected Pope since 1740 (Pope Clement XII, 1730-40).
Monsignor Frederick O’Connor of Houston, a previous pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Conroe, expressed his thoughts on the breaking news.
“I think it’s wonderful. It’s a good thing,” said Monsignor O’Connor. “Pope Benedict has listened to his conscience and his body, and the Lord’s guidance, to make this decision. It’s a daunting task to oversee the Church, and it’s probably taken its toll.” Monsignor O’Connor is still active at age 84, saying mass daily at different churches and locations like a convent and the city jail, while still managing to get in a round of golf occasionally, despite his demanding schedule. “We serve the Lord to the best of our abilities. I’m sure he’s doing it in the best interest of the Church,” added O’Connor.
Local parishioners were astonished. Among them…Joe Whitcraft, owner of the Woodlands Courier Service, who is not only a member of the St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in The Woodlands, but also a member of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization.
“It comes as a surprise. I found out about it on Facebook,” said Whitcraft. “Especially because he just recently posted a Christmas message on his Facebook page. “It has to be more difficult now than with previous popes, with how fast the media works and trying to stay up with the issues.”
In fact, Pope Benedict XVI is the first pope to embrace the social media, demonstrating his affinity for the written word, as opposed to being on the world stage in person. A Theologian who has written extensively for Church, his shy nature steered him toward the academic world during his earlier religious years; his papacy appointment was unusual given his limited pastoral experience.
Although the resignation comes as a surprise to Catholics and other religious leaders for what has traditionally been a life-time commitment, the Pope alluded to it back in 2010 in an interview where he made clear that he would step down if he became too old or infirm to do the job. Benedict called his choice “a decision of great importance for the life of the church.”
The legacy Pope Benedict XVI leaves behind is one of upholding steadfastly to the traditional doctrines of the Church, his determination to deal tenaciously with the sexual abuse scandals, and ensuring that his successor follow his lead by ending his papacy in such a way that it’s not left to chance.