INDIANAPOLIS — According to USA Today, as of last year there were nearly 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide. The resignation of their leader, Pope Benedict XVI, this past Monday sent shockwaves through the Catholic community, including locally.
Benedict became the first Holy Father to step down from his post in nearly 600 years, when Gregory XII left the position reluctantly. Benedict cited his “incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”
At Mary Queen of Peace parish in Danville, shock and admiration for his decision were the narratives as Catholics around the world digested their suddenly changing leadership.
“We were surprised,” offered Father Bernie Cox, who was ordained into the priesthood in 1991 and has been at Mary Queen of Peace since 2005. “He didn’t even tell his immediate staff. We look at Pope John Paul II and toward the end, he couldn’t even speak, yet traditionally the Holy Father remains in office until he dies.”
Cox said it’s hard to tell whether or not this is something that down the road might become a trend, but says that Benedict’s approach was a very realistic one.
Anna Wray, an administrative assistant at Mary Queen of Peace, says she was very proud of Benedict’s decision.
“I think it was a sacrifice and a great act of humility to step aside for his flock and do what’s best,” she said. “He is a great man and I personally am happy that he will be alive when they vote in a new Pope.”
While the church has come under fire for stances on more progressive issues, Cox says that the institution will not compromise their beliefs to adhere to politics in choosing a new leader.
“Politics has nothing to do with the election of a Pope,” he said. “When the Cardinals are locked in the Sistine Chapel conclave, it’s first and foremost through prayer and the guides of the Holy Spirit who will be the next Holy Father. Politics of the world have nothing to do with church politics. You can’t campaign for Pope. If you go in thinking or wanting to be elected, you’re the one who will not be elected.