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Catholics worldwide are still coming to terms with this week’s announcement that Pope Benedict XVI plans to resign this month, including parishioners of Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church
“We’re very sad because he’s such a great man, but we rely on the Holy Spirit to raise up a new servant,” said Rev. Morgan M. White, the church’s pastor. “He’s such a phenomenal theologian and thinker and defender of Christian values.”
Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday that he planned to resign Feb. 28 due to old age and declining strength. He told an audience at the Vatican this week that it is for the “good of the church” because he felt he no longer had the strength needed to fulfill his ministry.
“We need a man of stamina who can serve the world,” White said. “He does this in humility and trusting that God will send us the leader we need.”
The pope is no longer just a Catholic official, White said, but someone who offers leadership for all “people of goodwill” throughout the world. Because the pope is not considered to be from any particular country, he is someone who can encourage dialogue and peace between differing groups, he said.
“He serves an international function as an intermediary and peacemaker,” White said. “Fundamentally, he is someone who proclaims the good news of Jesus Christ.”
A conclave of Roman Catholic cardinals who will elect the next pope will likely take place around March 15. According to the rules governing the papal selection, the conclave cannot start until 15 days after the pope’s resignation is official. The Vatican has expressed hope a new pope could be selected by Easter, which falls on March 31.
Benedict is the first pontiff to resign since Pope Gregory XII stepped down in 1415.
“It’s very unusual,” White said. “But it demonstrates Pope Benedict’s great love for the church and his esteem for the office of the Vicar of Christ’s successor, St. Peter.”