By Michael J. ARVIZU
Pope Benedict XVI on Monday announced he will resign as the leader of the Catholic Church effective Feb. 28. The pontiff, 85, cited advancing age and declining strength of body and mind for his decision to step down.
No reigning pope has resigned since Gregory XII in 1415 – 598 years ago.
The pope made his announcement at the Vatican during an ordinary public consistory to approve the canonization of new saints.
“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 stated. “In today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”
At St. James the Less Church in La Crescenta, parishioners, waiting to pick up their kids from the parish school Monday afternoon, expressed surprise at being informed that Benedict had resigned.
“I was stunned by it, only because it breaks tradition,” said St. James the Less parishioner Robert Studer, referring to the pope’s lifetime appointment. “But I thought it was a good thing that the guy had the presence of mind to be able to step down.”
Calling it a business, the Catholic Church, Studer said, needs a CEO who is physically able to serve.
“Whoever is chosen pope is welcome,” said Modesto Pineda, a parishioner at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Tujunga. “Even if [Benedict] leaves, as good Catholic Christians, we always wish him nothing but the best. If he is not physically well, he made the right choice in stepping down. It was the most honest thing he could do.”
Clergy from all over the United States were quick to take to Facebook and Twitter Monday morning to share their thoughts on the pope’s resignation.
In a statement posted on his Facebook page, Archbishop of Los Angeles Jose H. Gomez called Benedict one of the “wisest persons in our world today.” Gomez was installed by Benedict to lead the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 2010.
On his Twitter page, Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony, Gomez’s predecessor, called Benedict’s resignation a “moment of grace for the Catholic Church.”
Mahony will be one of 116 cardinals, and 11 U.S. cardinals, under the age of 80 who are eligible to elect the next pope. Mahony himself is also eligible for the papacy.
“Am planning to be in Rome and vote for the next pope. Will be tweeting daily,” he wrote.
No time has been set for the conclave that will elect the new pope. It will be announced in the coming weeks. The church will be without a leader between Benedict’s official resignation and the election of a new pope. Meanwhile, the church’s administrative functions will be handled by the College of Cardinals.
“If this was a decision the pope made, we should respect it,” Pineda said.