Updated: Pope Benedict XVI Announces Resignation
Pontiff will be first to step down in nearly 600 years. What's your reaction and where does the church go from here?
Catholics around the world and in Northern Virginia were surprised when Pope Benedict XVI announced on Monday that he will step down from his position Feb. 28.
“Thinking of the welfare of the Church which he loves so dearly and is serving so faithfully, our Holy Father is confident that his stepping aside for the election of a new pope truly will benefit the Church and allow him to continue his ministry of prayer for the Church," Diocese of Arlington Bishop Paul Loverde said in a statement.
The diocese includes parishes all over Northern Virginia.
“My initial reaction was ‘Good for you,’" said Father Daniel Gee of St. Rita Parish in Arlandria. "[Pope Benedict XVI] has the hardest job in the world, the busiest job in the world and he’s 85 years old. As much as we love him and we’re going to miss him, it’s good that he’s getting a chance to step away, pray and study and get ready to meet his maker.”
Pope Benedict, formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was selected in April 2005 after the death of the very popular Pope John Paul II. Pope Benedict was 78 at the time—the oldest person in more than 200 years chosen to head the church.
"It's certainly a shocker, but it just doesn't feel like that big of a deal," Rosemary Connor posted on the Del Ray Patch Facebook page. "He was a surprising pick from the start given several factors, not the least of which was his advanced age. I think it was generally believed that he was selected by the cardinals as an 'interim' pope, so maybe he's figuring he's done his job as such."
Gee said there are prayers made each day for Pope Benedict. When there is no pontiff, that part of the prayer is left blank.
"We're so used to saying it," Gee said. "It will be like taking a line out of the Pledge of Allegiance."
In his announcement the Pope said:
"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."
Benedict's reign has been distracted by clerical abuse scandals and Vatican internal struggles.
“I urge my brothers and sisters in the Church and beyond to pray for the welfare of Pope Benedict XVI and also to ask the Holy Spirit, Who inspired the Pope’s decision, to guide the Cardinals in the upcoming Conclave to elect a new Vicar of Christ and successor to St. Peter," Loverde said.
Fourteen cardinals from North America are eligible to vote in the conclave for the next Pope, according to Catholic News Service, including Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington.
What's your reaction to the Pope's exit? What should the Cardinals look for in the next Pope? Will we see the first non-European pontiff? How will the change affect Catholics around the world and in Alexandria? Tell us in the comments below.