Pope’s resignation surprises Joliet-area church officials
By Bob Okon firstname.lastname@example.org February 11, 2013 11:12AM
Pope Benedict XVI waves after praying before the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, Cubas patron saint, in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba Tuesday March 27, 2012. Benedict is in the second day of his Cuban tour. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix, Pool)
Bishop R. Daniel Conlon’s statement
Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to resign comes as a surprise to all of us. Yet, it is consistent with the humble disposition that I have come to recognize in him, both in my brief personal encounters with him and in his deportment generally as earthly shepherd of the Church. He recognized that he no longer had the physical gifts necessary to carry out an office that becomes increasingly demanding.
The Holy Father has been a true blessing to us. He has been able to express the truths of faith in ways that are comprehensible for our times. He has been a steady and calm presence in the face of tumult in the world. He has persevered in Blessed John Paul II’s determination to confront the scandal of child abuse in the Church.
Because the Church was founded by Christ and lives by the Holy Spirit, we have no reason to worry about the future. The College of Cardinals will be convened a few days after Feb. 28 and elect a new Bishop of Rome in accord with exiting norms. Our task, as members of the Body of Christ, is to seek the guidance and strength of the Holy Spirit for the cardinals and to pray for a peaceful future for Pope Benedict.
Updated: March 13, 2013 6:14AM
Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation may have set a precedent that will affect future popes, a former Joliet bishop said.
The reaction among Catholics in Joliet, including the current bishop, ranged from surprised to stunned.
“Like everyone else, I was surprised,” Bishop Emeritus Joseph Imesch said Monday. “At the same time, I understand it. That’s a job for a young, healthy man.”
Imesch retired as bishop of the Diocese of Joliet in 2006 at age 75, which is mandatory retirement age for bishops. Pope Benedict is 85.
Popes, however, traditionally serve for life. The tradition is so strong that it’s been nearly 600 years since a pope has resigned the office.
Maybe it won’t be so long until the next time.
“I think he (Pope Benedict) has set a great precedent,” Imesch said. “At the same time, it may make it difficult for future popes.”
As future popes age, Imesch speculated, people may begin to ask the question: “Why doesn’t he resign?”
Bishop R. Daniel Conlon was not available for an interview Monday. But he issued a statement noting the demands popes face on the job.
“Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to resign comes as a surprise to all of us,” Conlon said. But, the bishop added, “He recognized that he no longer had the physical gifts necessary to carry out an office that becomes increasingly demanding.”
“I was stunned,” Tom Hare said as he visited St. Anthony’s Church in downtown Joliet to check the Ash Wednesday schedule. “Usually, they stay in there until they die.”
Hare said it was sad Pope Benedict would have to resign because of failing health. But he also appreciated the pope’s ability to recognize his limitations.
Max Thurner, a student at the University of St. Francis, said it was “a critical decision” for a pope to resign rather than follow the tradition of staying for life.
But, Thurner said, “I think it’s a good thing he stepped down because if you’re not able to do the job, or follow your calling, as a pope, it’s good that he’s passing it on to someone else.”
Still, Thurner said, “It’s kind of surprising that he actually did resign since it hasn’t happened in 600 years.”
A lot has changed in six centuries, including the average expected life span of a human being. That goes for popes, too, who may be regarded as infallible on matters in the Catholic church but are not considered immune to the consequences of aging.
Noted Imesch, “In the past, people did not live this long.”