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Area Pastor 'Surprised' by Pope Benedict XVI Resignation

Pontiff, 85, will step down Feb. 28 as bishop of Rome; his name will revert to Joseph Ratzinger.

"It was an absolute surprise."

That is what Father John T. McLoughlin of Briarcliff Manor's Parish of St. Theresa had to say about the news today that Pope Benedict XVI will be resigning at the end of the month.

As reported by The Associated Press, the 265th Pope on Monday announced his resignation before cardinals at a ceremony to name three new saints.

"I had no indication [of his resignation]," Rev. McLoughlin shared.

St. Theresa has New Castle ties, as it runs Millwood's Our Lady of the Wayside as a mission church and its clergy also serve Millwood.

Like the rest of the world, McLoughlin said he is relying on the media for "insider information" about the announcement, but, "We would be available to answer anybody's concerns."

Pope Benedict XVI has cited his age as a contributor to the decision. He has held the title since 2005 when his predecessor, John Paul II, passed away.

The Legionaries of Christ, a Roman Catholic religious order that has facilities in New Castle and Mount Pleasant, offered a statement through its general vicar, Father Sylvester Heereman.

"Today we received Pope Benedict XVI’s unexpected announcement that he intended to resign his ministry of bishop of Rome and successor to the Apostle Peter," Heereman said. "I encourage everyone to offer prayer and thanksgiving for the Holy Father and to pray in a special way for his health and any intentions he may have. I would ask that a Mass for the Pope be offered in all Legionary communities and Regnum Christi centers. If your parishes or dioceses will be holding a special event as a show of support for the Vicar of Christ, I highly encourage everyone to participate. Let us also pray for the cardinals who will soon come to Rome for the conclave so as to elect a new successor to Peter. During this time of transition, may the Holy Spirit guide and enlighten them."

Attempts to reach clergy at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Mount Kisco and the Church of St. John and St. Mary in Chappaqua were unsuccessful.

According to a posting on Poynter.org:

Many news organizations have reported that Pope Gregory XII was the last leader of the Roman Catholic Church to resign, in 1415. However, in this clip NBC Vatican analyst George Weigel says it’s been “717 years” since the last pope abdicated, by which he probably means Celestine V, who resigned 719 years ago, in 1294.

Gregory was not the pope for whom was named the Gregorian calendar (that was Gregory XIII) or Gregorian chant (Gregory the Great or Gregory II, opinions differ). XII resigned so the church could unite under a single pope after a schism. He died in 1417. Here’s somebackground on papal resignations.

Rev. McLoughlin said he doesn't think locals will be overly concerned about the announcemet.

"It's been accepted," he explained. "He offered his resignation and the reasons for it are very reasonable reasons."

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a statement this morning.

"The Holy Father brought the tender heart of a pastor, the incisive mind of a scholar and the confidence of a soul united with His God in all he did," Dolan stated. "His resignation is but another sign of his great care for the Church. We are sad that he will be resigning but grateful for his eight years of selfless leadership as successor of St. Peter."

Here is the pope's announcement, translated into English:

Dear Brothers,

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. 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.

I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, 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 Saint 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.

For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. 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. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

The Vatican has not yet announced when a successor will be named, but as a leader of the Roman Catholic faith, Rev. McLoughlin said there are a few key qualities he will look for in the next Pope—"I think he has to be a teacher, a servant, he has to be an advocate in many affairs and a prayerful person," he said.

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