Pope’s resignation surprises Valley Catholics

Priest believes move allows for smooth, quiet, peaceful, transition

Pope Benedict XVI, shown in this news service file photo, announced Monday he will resign Feb. 28 the 85-year-old pontiff cited health reasons for his decision (News Service photo)
Pope Benedict XVI, shown in this news service file photo, announced Monday he will resign Feb. 28 the 85-year-old pontiff cited health reasons for his decision (News Service photo)

The announcement Monday by Pope Benedict XVI that he is resigning as pope at the end of the month sparked few comments among St. Croix Valley Catholic congregations, according to a priest at one area Catholic church.
The Rev. Mark Juttner of St. Charles Catholic Church in Bayport said he has heard no comment from congregation members regarding the 85-year-old pontiff’s decision to step down.

“Since the announcement came on Monday morning, people at the morning mass really had no comment about it,” Juttner said. “It came as a bit of a surprise, of course. It hasn’t been done in 600 years but given his age and the fact the he was a significant theological cardinal to Pope John Paul II, who’s pontificate of 25 years was one of the longest in recent history, and seeing that the last 10 years that he was very ill, shaped his decision. I think the pontiff recognizes that he is unable to function as he needs to in the capacity that he needs to for the church. Though it’s unusual I think that a lot of people understand that he’s getting old and doing what he thinks is best for the church.”

According to international reports, Pope Benedict XVI is the first pontiff to resign as leader of the Catholic church in nearly 600 years. The German-born pope cited health concerns as the reason he is stepping down.

Media reports state that the pontiff told the church cardinals in Latin that: “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths due to an advanced age are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only by words and deeds but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary — strengths which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”

Media reports added that Pope Benedict XVI is expected to resign Feb. 28. Cardinals will then begin their Conclave, the process of electing the next Pope, March 1. Usually there is a nine-day mourning period in the church after a pope’s death before a Conclave begins. Vatican officials have repeatedly said the pope would not interfere in his successor’s selection.

“I think this (resignation) allows for a smooth, quiet and peaceful transition,” Juttner said. “Rather than mourning the death of a pope, I think Conclave will meet quickly on March 1 and I wouldn’t be surprised if on the fourth of fifth day we’ll know who the new pope is.”

Although there is no telling how long the Conclave will last, Easter is March 31 this year. Reports have indicated that the pope plans to retire to a monastery after his resignation.

“I think it’s a commendable thing that he’s doing; to retire and spend the rest of his days praying in a cloister of nuns,” Juttner said. “It’s not as though he’s lowering himself, it seems to me that he’s going from high to higher in faith.”
Juttner added that although this is a very different transition than the church is used to, the outcome is best left to history to see how it plays out.