The news of Pope Benedict XVI’s historic resignation drew surprise in the borough, as it did around the world, among faithful Catholics.
But many of the faithful called the news good news, because it shows the humility of the pope, “papa” of an estimated billion Catholics around the world.
Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the Archbishop of New York and spirtual leader of 2.6 million Catholics, said that Pope Benedict had a “message for eternity,” with his belief in the signficance of eternal truths.
“The Holy Father brought the tender heart of a pastor, the incisive mind of a scholar and the confidence of a soul united with his God in all he did,” said Dolan, who will be one of the electors of the new pope. “His resignation is but another sign of his great care for the church. We are sad that he will be resigning but grateful for his eight years of selfless leadership as successor of St. Peter.”
Monsignor John Graham, pastor of St. Raymond Church and East Bronx Vicar, said that being pope is very demanding. It requires endless meetings, receptions of vistors from around the world, interviews, talks, and travel.
He added that he was surpried, but not shocked, because in the past few months, the Pope, who will soon be 86, looked exhausted.
St. Raymond’s congregation prayed for Pope Benedict this past Sunday, and are saying a special prayer this week for the pontiff.
A change of office while the pope is alive, and selection of a new pope, is virgin territory for the Catholic Church, saod Graham.
“The process is moving along smoothly and methodically. It has just never happened this way before,” said Graham. “He is writing a new chapter in church history.”
Other Bronx Catholic clergy said parisioners initially expressed some surprise over the news.
“Certainly it is has generated a number of speculations and a lot of questions,” said Father Stephen Norton, pastor of St. Benedict Church in Throggs Neck.
Having the pope step aside because of the physical demands of the office is a beautiful example of his humility, said Norton.
Pope Benedict will now spend his time in quiet prayer, preparing to meet God whenever he is called, said Fr. Norton.
“It could be as simple as just stepping back,” he said, adding that it sets a wonderful example for all people.
Msgr. Anthony Marchitelli, pastor of Our Lady of Assumption Church in Pelham Bay, said that after the intial surprise, people saw wisdsom in the pope’s decision.
“The consensus seems to think it is a good thing,” said Marchitelli. “If he doesn’t think he is able to physically do the job, it is good for him to go into a life of prayer.”
Marchitelli said he had meet the Pope when he was Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, and found him to be a kind and competent human being.
Pope Benedict XVI was elected pope by the Cardinal electors in 2005.
According to a Feb. 17 New York Times article, Cardinal electors are already speaking and e-mailing about potential candidates.
Pope Benedict’s resignation becomes offical at the end of February.
Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 742-3393