Belleville Priest Praises Benedict's Humility
Pope shocks Catholics worldwide with news of his retirement, the first in 600 years
News that Pope Benedict XVI would be retiring at the end of this month was certainly a shock to Father Ivan Sciberras, who was “caught by surprise” when the 85-year-old pontiff made his announcement early Monday.
Still, Sciberras, the pastor of St. Peter’s Church in Belleville, said the historic move was not entirely unforeseen.
“Pope Benedict has said in the past that if he were incapacitated, he would resign,” Sciberras said. "In the past year there has been a noticeable decline in his health.”
“I think it is wise move. The pontiff’s health is obviously failing....it is best to step down,” one woman said via Facebook.
In a statement quoted in The New York Times, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said, “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.”
Vatican officials said that a successor may be elected by Easter, which falls on March 31 this year.
Benedict became leader of the one-billion strong Catholic Church in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II. Benedict, who had worked closely with John Paul enforcing church doctrine, is the first pope to resign since 1415, when Gregory XII stepped down to end the Great Schism and reunify the church.
Watching the elderly and infirm John Paul II struggle in the final years of his papacy likely influenced Benedict’s decision, Scibberas said.
“One of the things I think he took into consideration were the challenges and the difficulties Pope John Paul experienced,” Sciberras said.
Sciberras went on to praise the conservative Benedict as one who accepted the role of pontiff not out of ambition but a sense of duty.
“The pope is an incredibly humble man. He never wanted to be pope. He begged the cardinals not to elect him,” Sciberras said.