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Gratitude and Hope Prominent in Reactions to the Holy Father’s Announcement

Mark Gordon - published on 02/11/13 - updated on 06/08/17

Check here for updates on reactions to Pope Benedict's announced resignation

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Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement today that he will vacate the Chair of Peter, effective on February 28, is eliciting reaction from across the Catholic community in the United States.

Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, noted that “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. 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 … The occasion of his resignation stands as an important moment in our lives as citizens of the world. Our experience impels us to thank God for the gift of Pope Benedict. Our hope impels us to pray that the College of Cardinals under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit choose a worthy successor to meet the challenges present in today’s world.”

In his formal statement, Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago, said that Benedict XVI “has taught with clarity and charity what God has revealed to the world in Christ; he has handed on the apostolic faith; he has loved all of God’s people with all his heart.  He has now shown great courage in deciding, after prayer and soul-searching, to resign his office at the end of this month.”

Fr. James Martin, SJ, a popular author and Culture Editor at the Jesuit newsweekly, America, said that the Holy Father’s “most lasting legacy, I would suggest, will not be in the various “newsworthy” acts of his papacy that were highlighted in the media so often … but something far more personal: his books on Jesus.  Far more people will most likely read those moving testaments to the person who is at the center of his life—Jesus of Nazareth—than may read all of his encyclicals combined.”

Gil Bailie, president of the Cornerstone Forum, and a Fellow at the Dominican School of Philosophy & Theology, quoted Henri de Lubac in his reflection on Benedict’s decision to step down. “With Benedict's resignation heavy on my mind,” said Bailie, “I recalled a favorite passage from the great French theologian. It seems especially appropriate in the case of Joseph Ratzinger: ‘I knew a man – a priest – who spoke in almost the same tone in his room, in a church, and in a lecture hall; who expressed himself in almost the same terms whether before little children or among philosophers; who said the same things to the infidels or our modern society, to pagans from the Far East, and to the faithful. In his discourse, which never attained eloquence, the machinery of proof was always reduced to a minimum; there was no debate; it was as free before strangers as in a group of intimate friends. His politeness – exquisite, by the way – ignored the conventional pleasantries. Never a man, in a sense, who was less “adapted.” But this man was all things to all men, and of his plenitude everybody partook.’”

The Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, Carl Anderson, issued a public statement offering both thanksgiving for Benedict’s reign, as well as prayers for the upcoming conclave: “In these remaining days of his papacy, our thoughts and prayers are with Pope Benedict XVI, who has worked so hard in leading the Church, and has always been such a good friend to the Knights of Columbus. We wish him all the best in his retirement. In addition, we pray for all those cardinals who will take part in the conclave, and for his successor, that God may inspire them as they carry out the mission with which they are entrusted.”

As one would expect, the Catholic ‘Blogosphere’ has been abuzz with the news of the Holy Father’s decision. Sam Rocha, who blogs on the Catholic Channel at Patheos, wrote, “His encyclicals have been personally transformative to me and will serve the Church for years to come. They began with love—Deus Caritas Est. Today he completes that teaching: to love is to be selfless. Unafraid to admit to weakness and human frailty, love sometimes means having the courage to retire, to let go. There is great love in admitting to what we cannot do. Love does not always make advances. Sometimes, love must retreat.”

Also at Patheos, Elizabeth Scalia, who writes the “Anchoress” blog, suggested that the there an important spiritual message is embedded in the Holy Father’s announcement. Scalia wrote, “Perhaps Benedict’s retirement is meant to remind this exceedingly busy world — the non-stop, twenty-four-hour-live and very self-important world — that we are none of us indispensable; that there comes a time to step back, throw oneself into the arms of the Lord and trust that all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

In an email, author Mark Shea, of the popular “Catholic and Enjoying It” blog, expressed the sentiments of many. “I have nothing but gratitude for the man,” wrote Shea.  “There is something prophetic about how the Holy Spirit, after a century dominated by a race war of Germans against Poles, raised up a Pope who was Pole followed by a Pope who was a German, living out the peace and love of Christ in beautiful concord.  God speed to him and God send us a successor worthy of these two giants.”

Catholic layman David Hanley Olwell, from Monterey, California, said that Pope Benedict XVI “leaves behind a deep legacy of important theological writings, as well as historical movements to repair division in the Church and Christendom. I hope that the next Holy Father will continue the recent emphasis on evangelization and renewal, as the Church continues to preach salvation and redemption to an increasingly indifferent and secular world. I wish Pope Benedict well. As he commits his remaining life to prayer for the Church and the world, may those prayers be effective."

Keith Michael Estrada, 23, the new Coordinator of Justice and Peace for the Diocese of Joliet, IL, reflected on the Holy Father’s commitment to interreligious dialogue, environmentalism, economic justice, and the culture of life. “Benedict XVI has proven himself to be an ally to the truth,” noted Estrada. “Many have commented on his work in fostering a friendship with Judaisim; but I have not seen much comment on the man who upheld and promoted all life: human and organic. Environmentalists had a great supporter, partner, in seeking to protect the environment and promoting authentic human flourishing. Foes of capital punishment lost a partner. B16's Church remained strong in speaking against economic injustice. Honestly, the man who will be resigning from the papacy is a man who preached the Love of Jesus Christ, in Truth, and did so consistently, and with simplicity. While his reign will have been comparably short, it will certainly be considered monumental. The next Roman Pontiff will have big shoes to fill, as Benedict has.”

The Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter issued a statement: "Our hearts are saddened to receive the news that Pope Benedict will step down from the Chair of Peter, but there is a deeper joy knowing that we are the fruit of his vision for Catholic unity. And we will pray and work diligently to so that his labors in the vineyard might continue to bring forth a fruitful harvest. […] Perhaps the most important thing that we can say at this time is a heart-felt thank you to Pope Benedict XVI, for giving to us this beautiful gift of communion."

Archbishop José H. Gomez, archbishop of Los Angeles, wrote on his Facebook page: "Pope Benedict XVI has truly been a Holy Father to the family of God, his Catholic Church. His decision to resign is a beautiful, Christ-like act of humility and love for the Church. This is the act of a saint, who thinks not about himself but only about the will of God and the good of God’s people. I have great affection for this Pope. In my opinion, he is one of the wisest persons in our world today. I try to learn every day from his words and example. I received my Archbishop’s pallium twice from him and I will always be grateful that he chose me to be the Archbishop of Los Angeles. Let us thank God today for the love and witness of Pope Benedict XVI. Let us entrust him to our Blessed Mother Mary and pray that he will continue to have joy and peace and many more years for prayer and reflection."

Georg Ratzinger (brother of Pope Benedict XVI) said he knew of his brother's announcement in advance, that Benedict was having trouble walking, and that "he wants peace of mind at this age".

Chief Rabbi Lord Sackswrote on Facebook"I was honoured to welcome Pope Benedict XVI to Britain on behalf of non-Christian faiths in 2010 and spend time with him during a visit to the Vatican in 2011. I saw him to be a man of gentleness, of quiet and of calm, a deeply thoughtful and compassionate individual who carried with him an aura of grace and wisdom. I wish him good health, blessings and best wishes for the future."

Jimmy Akin, Catholic apologist, wrote on his website: "1. I’m disappointed. I think Pope Benedict is an amazing teacher, and I have truly valued his time as pope. 2. I have to accept his judgment. He knows his personal situation and the demands of his office better than I do. If he thinks it’s time to go, I have to respect that. 3. It’s not entirely a surprise. He himself has said things before that indicated this could someday be a live possibility for him."

Tom McDonald, 'God and the Machine' blogger, wrote: "After my return to the faith, I read Cardinal Ratzinger closely and came to love the man, his wisdom, his clarity, his charity. He was the master catechist of our age, and as one called to the catechetical ministry, I felt a connection to this pope that I never had with Bl. John Paul II. He is the person I admire most in the world, now more than ever when this man caricatured as an “arch-conservative” (and who anyone with eyes to see knew was nothing of the sort) has once again done something bold and unexpected. He has recognized his limitations, and acted accordingly."

Michael Sean Winters, 'Distinctly Catholic' blogger, wrote: "It is too soon to write an appreciation of Benedict XVI. Better to say: This fascinating man who might well be the most thoughtful, cultured, deeply read public figure of our time deserves more than a quick blog post, written hurriedly."

"Soitently!" exclaimed Michael Haring, of Pentaluma, California. "I am saddened to learn of the Pope's resignation. He remains one of the few hierarchs in the Church who clearly realizes the link between liturgy and culture, began a vigorous reform of wayward religious and was a pillar of truth defending nascent human life and the sacrament of marriage. I also realize, his office is demandind for men half his age. You will be missed, Holy Father."

The reaction of Julia Smucker, a graduate student in theology at St. John's School of Theology-Seminary in Collegeville, Minnesota, was surprise and gratitude. "I was startled to hear Pope Benedict's announcement of resignation, although I am certain he must have given serious thought and prayer to this decision, Smucker said. "I thank the Holy Father for the courage and humility he has shown in his announcement, and for his many years of service to the Church. We don't know where the coming transition will lead us; it may signal an exciting or tumultuous time for the Church, perhaps both. I pray that the Holy Spirit will guide the conclave to elect a successor who can, with the guidance of the same Spirit, help to heal the deep wounds and divisions in our Church and deepen her witness to her Lord."

This article also has contributions from Brantly Millegan.

Pope Benedict XVI
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