Local Catholics, Bishop Gainer react to Pope's resignation

Following Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement of his resignation this morning, Bishop Ronald W. Gainer, head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lexington, released the following statement:

“While we are saddened by the news of the Holy Father’s resignation, all must admire the great courage in his decision. Humility has always been one of the hallmarks of Pope Benedict’s life and ministry, and he shows that humility once again in his recognition of the limitations of his age in the face of the awesome demands of the Petrine ministry.

“In the eight years of his papacy, the Holy Father has used his considerable gifts for the Universal Church and for all peoples of the world: the gentleness of a pastor, the intellect of a scholar, and the boldness in speaking the truth of a true disciple of Jesus Christ.

“Recurring themes in Benedict’s papacy have been the importance of eternal truths for the modern world and the danger of what he termed the ‘dictatorship of relativism.’ He has been unflinching as champion of the sacredness of all human life and in defending the poor and vulnerable.

“I thank God for his eight years of self-sacrificing ministry as the successor of St. Peter. I encourage everyone to pray for Pope Benedict that God will give him strength and peace during this transition and pray for the particular guidance of the Holy Spirit for the Church and the College of Cardinals as they prepare for the election of the new pope.”

For the first time in 600 years, a pope has resigned from the head of the Catholic Church. Today Pope Benedict XVI released his announcement in Latin that he will be stepping down on February 28th.

WKYT's Melissa Etezadi spoke to Father Jim Sichko, a priest at St. Mark's Church in Richmond, who said, "It was not something I nor the majority of the faithful expected."

The 85 year old pope, who was elected by the College of Cardinals back in 2005 following the death of Pope John Paul II, was the oldest pope elected in nearly 300 years.

Cathy Cornett, the Principal of St. Mark Catholic School, "It's something we had just talked about last week because we were having a Religion Bee, and the students were very interested in how the pope got elected, so this morning I was like 'Wow, we're going to have a lot to talk about.'"

Citing health reasons and age as some of the factors in his resignation, Pope Benedict made it clear throughout the years that if he ever felt he wasn't able to fulfill his job to the fullest, he'd step down.

It was a promise he lived up to.

Father Jim Sichko said, "It's not my will that we always pray about ... it's God's will ... and he clearly stated that he felt through his own prayer that this was God's will for him to step down and to allow someone to come in with much more energy."

As the shock wears off, the issue of who will next become pope rises to the topic of conversation. It's a question that, unless you're a member of the College of Cardinals, you will have to wait to find the answer.

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