Aurora -- The Rev. James M. Daprile, pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, said the announcement of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI "caught me and many of my parishioners by surprise."
"We expect a transition when a pope dies, and this [resignation] has not been a usual custom," he said. "The most modern thing he has done is to be aware of his condition," Daprile said. "He is aging, weak and unable to carry forth the duties that are entrusted to him in a responsible way."
The pope's announcement Feb. 11 that he was giving up his position because he was too elderly and infirmed for the job was the first papal resignation in 598 years, according to published reports.
The last pope to resign, Gregory XII, did so in 1415 -- 10 years into his tenure -- in the midst of a leadership crisis in the church known as the Great Western Schism.
Daprile said people may have been surprised by Pope Benedict XVI's resignation, "especially in our culture where we don't see that as a normal [practice]. People want to die with their shoes on, and work sometimes well beyond their best energies, much to the detriment of companies and organizations."
Pope Benedict XVI will retire after an eight-year tenure at age 85. His last day will be Feb. 28.
"He has served the church mostly as a scholar pope," Daprile said. "That's what his chief contribution is. He was willing to engage the tradition through his research, and he tried to find a synthesis for the contemporary age. His love and hope were reflections of that.
"His humbleness and willingness to break with tradition of which he stood so strongly within, and to see that the needs of the wider church are being met, rather than just his own self-sustaining leadership, truly is a marvelous event," he said.
"The action doesn't need to be judged only in terms of leadership management, but more importantly, in terms of serving the leadership the church tries to expouse," he said. "The church tries to set a different example.
"He has challenged all of us to look at our commitments, our vitalities and the energies we use for our well being, serving God and loving our brothers and sisters," he added.
SOME OTHER REACTIONS
Leaders of other Portage County Catholic churches reacted to the news of the resignation with a mixture of surprise and acceptance.
"My first reaction is surprise. I certainly didn't see that coming," said Rev. Michael Garvey, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Mantua.
Parishioners showed up at Mass that morning and "the first question out of their mouths was 'Have you heard the news?' and I hadn't at the time," he said. "They were all quite interested in 'What do you know, what do you think?'"
Garvey said he admires Benedict. He called his resignation "a courageous move, unprecedented in 600 years."
He said his thoughts are with the pope, and would "ask for prayers for Holy Father, and guidance for the church in selecting a new leader."
Garvey said a Catholic radio station was reporting that a papal conclave, the selection process for a new pope, is expected to take place no later than mid-March with the next pope's election to take place before Easter.
As for the selection of the next pope, Garvey said he would like to see a man in his late 50s or early 60s take up the mantle, possibly "someone who would have a world view as opposed to a strictly Italian or European world view. But I guess I'll have to leave that in the Holy Spirit's hands."
The Rev. John Madden, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Ravenna, said the news came as a total surprise, but imagines the workload is overwhelming for a man who is 85.
"I feel he has every right to retire," he said. "He must feel at this point it's time to bow out and get off the stage." He pointed out that the pope's workload as the "vicar of Christ on Earth" is greater than some might imagine.
Bishop George Murry of the Diocese of Youngstown, which includes Portage County, said he was saddened to hear of the pontiff's resignation, saying that given his age, it is "understandable but nonetheless a great loss for the Church. Pope Benedict's love of the United States was evident when he visited Washington and New York in 2008."
Bishop Richard Lennon of the Diocese of Cleveland released a statement noting the Pope's resignation was similar to a family living with an aging parent, calling the decision, "an action motivated by his love of the Church."
"I encourage the Faithful to pray for Pope Benedict XVI, asking God to bless him with his gifts of peace and joy, also, I invite all the Faithful to join with me to pray to the Holy Spirit asking him to give us a successor who will continue leading our Church and reflecting the image of Jesus Christ," Lennon said.
Several Record-Courier reporters contributed to this story.
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