PLATTSBURGH — This is an in-between time for the Roman Catholic Church.
With Monday’s announcement of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation from the papacy, effective Feb. 28, the world awaits the white-smoke outcome of a conclave of cardinals to elect a new pope.
In the meantime, local Catholics respond to the 85-year-old pontiff’s resignation.
The Most Rev. Terry R. LaValley, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg:
“The Church, indeed, the whole world has been so richly blessed these last eight years through the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. While today’s announcement of his retirement at the end of this month came as a complete surprise, one can certainly understand it, given the grueling schedule of the Successor of St. Peter,” LaValley said in a press release.
“I have special affection and respect for the Holy Father who appointed me three years ago as Fourteenth Bishop of the Diocese of Ogdensburg. The prophetic and compassionate leadership of this man of deep faith inspires such hope in millions of people, Catholic and non-Catholic, throughout the world.
“The Church of Ogdensburg joins people of good will everywhere in prayer of deep gratitude for this holy man. We now pray for the Church as she prepares to elect and entrust his successor to the Petrine Office.”
Sister Jennifer Votraw, Sisters of St. Joseph and Diocese of Ogdensburg director of communications:
“The Catholics, overall, are hopeful and surprised of the resignation and believe the Holy Spirit is behind it all, and it all will work for the best. The pope did make a decision that wasn’t hasty but was prayed over, and it was a decision that was best for the whole church and not just a personal decision.”
The Rev. John Demo, St. Philip of Jesus, Willsboro:
“One of surprise but understanding that his health is such that he feels it’s necessary to resign. Everyone was pretty much surprised.
“Everyone was very happy with his pontificate, the way, through his writings and speeches, he encouraged everyone to have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. I found him to be a very spiritual person. I never had the privilege to meet him, but through his writings, I found him a very spiritual man.”
Monsignor Dennis Duprey, St. Peter’s Catholic Church, Plattsburgh:
“Like everyone, I was kind of surprised. We didn’t really expect it. It hasn’t happened in over 600 years. My life span does not include it. He has done a wonderful job. He spoke about it before. He felt when he was unable to do the job that he would consider resigning, so he did. There is provision in church law for him to do it. It’s according to standards. It’s a wonderful act of humility to give to people of the church.”
The Rev. Kris Lauzon, St. Margaret’s in Wilmington, St. Matthew’s in Black Brook and Holy Name in AuSable Forks:
“So far in the discussions we’ve been having with parishioners, it’s in the whole context of the sacrifice he’s making resigning from the papacy. It’s something that has not happened in the recent past, in 600 years. The papacy has changed in the last 20 or 30 years for what people expect from the pope and how he is able to interact with people of God. The papacy is much more, now, a worldwide stage, especially since Pope John Paul II.
“His resignation, his prayer about his own health to continue this Petrine ministry, the ministry of Peter, that role has changed so drastically with technology and everything. He feels the church needs someone who can do that much more effectively at this point. Pope John Paul II continued when he was really sick. He had a different focus with his ministry, the focus on the gospel of life and the focus of the dignity of human life from conception to natural death. When he got older, why should he retire? As father to a family, you don’t dismiss them when they get older. There is a value to them while they are going through the dying process.”
“For Pope Benedict, his role has been so much as the teacher to us. He sees his role as, ‘I have done what I could in this ministry, and now it is up to God to choose now who to lead the church.’”
Sister Elizabeth Menard, Dominican Sisters of Hope, Plattsburgh:
“I was just unbelievably surprised. I did not think any pope would resign because of the history. For so long, they would remain a pope until their death. So when the word came, I was shocked. I just did not expect that at all.”
The Rev. John Yonkovig, St. Agnes Catholic Church, Lake Placid:
“I think it was a tremendous act of courage and a deep faith on his part. It’s important for us to understand our limitations. I think the pope knew that the physical demand of being leader of the Catholic Church was just more than his physical stamina would allow for. I was surprised, but I was also inspired that someone has such great insight and is willing to be humble enough that God would have other plans for him.”
The Rev. Scott Seymour, the Roman Catholic Community of St. Alexander’s and St. Joseph’s, Treadwells Mill and Morrisonville:
“Personally, I think it’s a very humbling thing he’s doing in a sense. He’s a very thoughtful and humble man who realizes his limitations and has the best interest of the church at heart. Realizing those limitations, he knows it’s time for someone who has more energy and whose insight is sharper to move the church forward.
“I think it takes a courageous person to realize your limitations. There comes a time when we realize our limitations, and we need to step away and let someone else in who has the energy and the youthfulness that’s needed to do the work of a Holy Father, of a pope. A lot of people don’t always recognize that. I think he’s a great man, a very prayerful, a very holy, a very humble man. I was fortunate enough to meet him when he was not pope in Rome. He ordained a friend of mine, Father Joseph Giroux.”
The Rev. Joseph Giroux, Notre Dame Church, Malone:
“Shock, it was a complete surprise both because it’s so unusual in the history of the church but also because I just didn’t see it coming with this particular pope, who despite his age and the burdens of the job still seemed to be doing so very well.
“I was ordained a deacon by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on Oct. 7, 1999, at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. It was a beautiful ceremony. It was a day of great joy. His holiness and his gentleness were very evident that day. He’d been kind enough to our class for a little question-and-answer session a few months before the ceremony. We also saw in that a real sign of his genuine care.
“He wasn’t just being a church functionary but a real shepherd. Little did we know that a few years later, he would be the pope. It was exciting to feel some sort of personal connection when he was elected, even as slight as it was.
“There is a sadness in his departure, and I noticed that more so Ash Wednesday than I did the day of the announcement (resignation) because he was offering his last public Mass as pope. So watching some clips on the Internet from that last night, hearing his words and seeing the reaction of the congregation were very poignant.”
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