‘A good move’: Southland church leaders react to pope’s resignation
BY STEVE METSCH email@example.com February 11, 2013 6:24PM
The Rev. Joseph Noonan at St. Damian Catholic Church in Oak Forest, Illinois, Thursday, January, 12, 2012. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 13, 2013 6:21AM
The Rev. Joe Noonan, pastor of St. Damian Catholic Church in Oak Forest, is happy for Pope Benedict XVI, who announced Monday he will resign on Feb. 28.
Benedict “has served the Church a long time and served it well,” Noonan said.
Noonan also is excited because “any time there’s a new Pope, most Catholics, and a lot of non-Catholics, are excited about seeing what happens,” he said.
The news didn’t shock Noonan.
“Bishops normally retire at 75 or shortly thereafter. He deserves to have a retirement. For his sake, I hope he’s healthy and is able to enjoy a couple years retirement,” he said.
Similar sentiments were shared by others in the Southland.
Sister Kathleen Anne Tait, principal of Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, noted that this is the first papal resignation since 1415.
“But I believe it was a good move on his part,” she said. “He recognized that you need all your energy and ability to administer to the Church. I respect his decision.”
The Rev. Bill Corcoran, pastor of St. Linus Parish in Oak Lawn, said it took “a great deal of courage and common sense for (Benedict) to realize his health and strength were failing him in what is an incredibly demanding job.
“He was an active pope, traveling the world and publishing three encyclicals,” Corcoran said.
The Rev. Ken Fleck, pastor of St. George Church in Tinley Park, said “it’s really hard to say” who the next pope will be, noting that Benedict “had the inside track” when he was elected in 2005 because he presided over the College of Cardinals.
Fleck said he wished the new pope could work side by side with Benedict for six to 12 months “to make the transition easier,“ but he knows it doesn’t work that way.
He hopes the new pope comes from South America or Africa, which have growing Catholic populations.
While recent sex abuse scandals have seriously damaged the Church’s image, Fleck does not think that played a role in Monday’s announcement.
“His health has been failing in the last few years,” Fleck said. “I wish John Paul II had done the same thing. He had Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and he should have resigned a couple years before he died.
“I’m glad that this pope is taking that step. It shows real courage and a trust in the Holy Spirit.”
Noonan agreed that it would be “a wonderful thing if the next Pope comes from one of the more populated Catholic countries” in South American, Central America, Africa or Asia, he said.
Corcoran hopes for a younger man “who is very pastoral and listens well,” he said.
“That job has huge demands and responsibility. Attendance at churches is down worldwide and across all denominations. We need someone to spread the Gospel, someone who can draw people in and engage them,” Corcoran said.
Tait wants to see a pope who “is in touch with the people of God;” has the vitality of the globe-trotting Pope John Paul II, who served from 1978 to 2005; and the general appeal of Pope John XXIII, who served from 1958 to 1963 and “reinvigorated the Church,” she said.
Fleck said no American will be elected.
“To invest the most powerful position in the Catholic Church with someone from the most powerful nation in the world would not sit right,” he said.