Pope to resign

Local priests were surprised by the announcement of Pope Benedict XVI’s retirement, and will be praying for him in the coming days and for the cardinals who will elect his successor.

“I got a phone call at 6 in the morning telling me he had resigned, from another priest,” said the Rev. Joe Dillinger of Holy Trinity Parish. “He wanted me to not be caught off guard.”

Dillinger did have a few people ask questions during the 7 a.m. Mass.

“They were just really surprised more than anything,” he said. “I think what catches me more than the surprise is how fast it’s coming.”

The Pope made his announcement Monday morning, and will retire Feb. 28.

“That’s hardly even three weeks,” Dillinger said.

It’s also surprising because the Pope seemed to be in good health, Dillinger said.

“It was a very well-kept secret, obviously. It caught a lot of people off guard,” said Monsignor Kevin McCoy, of Holy Trinity.

“Apparently, unbeknownst to me, the Pope has been suffering due to his age and other infirmities more than he appears,” said the Rev. Brian Danner, of the St. Thomas, St. Francis and St. Mary parishes in Manson, Rockwell City and Pomeroy.

The Rev. Nils Hernandez agreed that the news was “quite a shock.”

Hernandez is the priest for the Holy Family Cluster that includes Belmond, Clarion and Eagle Grove. He said the last time a pope resigned was nearly 600 years ago, to end a dispute with a rival claimant to the papacy.

“It’s unprecedented in our lifetime,” said Danner. “So it’s quite startling to learn of an announcement like this.”

McCoy said when he heard the news this morning, “First of all I just said a prayer of thanksgiving for the good service Pope Benedict has given to the church.”

“I think he is to be admired for assessing his own human frailty,” McCoy added. “I think it takes great humility and great courage to do what he did.”

“For me this is a great example of humility, and a great example for us to see that the Holy Spirit is working in this,” said Hernandez.

Not much has been planned in response yet, since the announcement just came today.

At St. Edmond Catholic Schools, the chaplain led the students to “pray again for Pope Benedict and for the church as we enter into this time of ‘Sede Vacante,’ the empty seat,” McCoy said.

Dillinger said he hopes a conversation of how the pope is chosen, and who the new pope might be, would be featured in the weekly discussion group.

“This coming Sunday,” Hernandez said, “I am going to preach about hoping and trusting in the Lord. We will be planning in the near future, I don’t know yet, but we will be planning for something in preparation for the new pope they have selected.”

McCoy was assigned to Rome when Pope John Paul II died and Pope Benedict was elected. In fact, he said, he was in Rome when John Paul I and John Paul II were elected as well.

Pope Benedict “was a long-time right-hand man, you might say, of Pope John Paul II,” he said. “He was and is a wonderful theologian.”

“We are grateful for all of his time, energy and ministerial service to the church,” said Danner. “He has continued the tradition of John Paul II very well.”

More important than that, said McCoy, he continued to do the work of the Lord.

Dillinger said, “I would hope the next pope would come from like Africa, or Latin America especially.”

Those places contain the fastest-growing Catholic population in the world now, he said.

“I think it would be good to have a pope from a Third World country, because sometimes I think they’re often left out in the church,” Dillinger said. “We take up many collections for the poor and so forth, and I don’t know really how effective sometimes we are, if we really understand what they go through every day.

“I think going hungry three meals a day is pretty hard to understand. I get hungry after one meal.”