by Linda Russell, KY3 News
12:17 PM CST, February 11, 2013
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The announcement that Pope Benedict XVI will step down on Feb. 28 took the world by surprise. A few local Roman Catholics offered their reactions on Monday morning.
Parishioners of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church gathered for daily Masses at 6:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., where many heard the news for the first time. They remembered the pope in their prayers and prayed for the church in this time of change.
Pope Benedict was elected in 2005 at age 78. His resignation comes just before the start of Lent, which begins this week on Ash Wednesday. Most Catholics have never heard of a pope resigning, since it hasn't happened in about 600 years.
“Of course, I was just really surprised. I've never heard of a pope resigning before, so, at this time, we just really pray for the church and ask God's blessings on the church as we'll be looking for a new leader,” said Father Tom Reidy.
“We will be praying for the pope, and we will be praying for the Vatican, and we know our church will survive,” said Violet Mushrush.
“Usually, they stay around until they pass away in the position. It'll be something we'll have to pray about, and hopefully they'll be able to find us a new pope here pretty quick,” said Eric Schmidt.
At St. Joseph Catholic Academy, students and staff are also processing the news. "It was a big surprise. It was a big surprise to us," says Principal Marilyn Batson.
Though saddened by Pope Benedict's decision, some feel it may be for the best. "You have to respect someone reaching a certain point and saying, I am no longer capable of giving this my full attention. My abilities are beginning to wane, and I need to do something else about that. So I have to admire Pope Benedict for that," Batson says.
Father Denis Dougherty says, "John Paul didn't retire when he was incapacitated, and think Pope Benedict felt that he didn't want to get incapacitated like Pope John Paul had."
It's a big change, but Springfield Catholics believe the church's strength will not waver. "The Catholic Church is, in their minds and my mind too, very stable, and because they've either read in their history books about the succession of the popes and even the process by which the Pope is chosen," says Batson.
"It's a minor hiccup. I don't think it's anything we need to really worry about," says Eric Schmidt.
The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory the XII in 1415. The last uncontested pope to resign was Pope Celestine V, more than 120 years earlier, in 1294.
Cardinals in the Catholic Church will elect a new pope. In part of his announcement, Pope Benedict said, “And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff."
Though church law allows for the resignation of a pope, it's unclear at this point what the proper title would be for a former pope. The Holy See Press Office has announced that Pope Benedict XVI will not participate in the process to elect his successor.
President Obama issued a statement sending the pope appreciation and prayers. The president also wished the best to those who will soon gather to choose Benedict's successor.
Read the Pope's statement here.
The Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau has been reacting the new on it's Facebook page.
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