By Jim Melwert
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The announcement of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation came as a surprise to Vatican insiders, and especially to Philadelphia-area Catholics. Some church-goers at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul hadn’t even heard the news when they arrived for morning mass on Monday.
“I didn’t see it coming,” said 24-year-old Catholic, Jackie Brennan, “especially with the Holy Season coming up and Ash Wednesday.”
Pope Benedict said he would resign on February 28th because he was simply too infirm to carry on (read related story).
“Anybody in that position, if they’re to leave it, it’s got to be a pretty good reason, so I just continue to pray his health is okay.”
Parishioner Carole Breslin said she doesn’t think Pope Benedict is stepping down for any other reason than his health.
“The fact that there’s so much going, a lot of it so negative, he may have felt that his health was affecting his ability to make good decisions,” she said, “but we don’t know that.”
The news of Pope Benedict’s resignation had parishioners thinking about his proposed visit to Philadelphia in 2015.
“I knew he was ill, but I knew we were planning for him to be here. So it was a big event for us. We were really looking forward to it. Now, I don’t know if the new pope will do the same thing.”
As far as Pope Benedict’s legacy, people say it’s hard to follow someone as popular as Pope John Paul II, but one woman said she believes Pope Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Ratzinger, was running the Vatican leading up to Pope John Paul II’s death.
As for selecting that next pope, current Philadelphia archbishop Charles Chaput will not be directly involved as he’s not a Cardinal, but retired Philadelphia archbishop, Cardinal Justin Rigali will be included in the conclave.
Statement of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. CAP. regarding Monday’s announcement from the Vatican:
“From his work as a young theologian at Vatican II to his ministry as universal pastor of the Church, Joseph Ratzinger has served God and the global Christian community with intelligence, eloquence and extraordinary self-sacrifice.
As Pope Benedict XVI, he has led God’s people through complicated times with uncommon grace, and his stepping down now, at 85, from the burdens of his office is another sign of his placing the needs of the Church above his own. Catholics worldwide owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude. He will remain in our hearts and always be in our prayers.”
Listen to KYW Newsradio’s Harry Donahue discuss the Pope’s resignation with Vatican observer Rocco Palmo: