Local Catholic clergy said Monday Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to step down from the papacy because of advancing age shows the man’s devotion to the church.
“I think he was very wise in saying that we need someone in office that has full capacity,” said the Rev. Carmen D’Amico, pastor at Our Lady of Miraculous Medal in Meadow Lands, who also acknowledged the growing demands on the papacy.
“I think it’s a lot, physically, emotionally and spiritually, for one person to deal with,” he said.
The pope’s recognition of his physical limitations impressed the Rev. William Feeney at Washington’s Immaculate Conception Church. It has been 600 years since a pope resigned.
“It’s a heroic thing to do,” Feeney said. “It shows humility and a sense of the importance of his office.”
Noting the announcement came on the World Day of the Sick, which was established by Pope John Paul II for the same day as the Feast of our Lady of Lourdes, Feeney wondered if there was a message there.
“I suspect it had something to do with the timing when this became public,” he said.
Although taken by surprise at the news, area priests have seen the diminished capacity of the pope, now 85. He was named eight years ago as successor to Pope John Paul II, who was 58 years of age when he was chosen as pope.
The Rev. Robert Boyle of St. Francis of Assisi in Finleyville included the holy father in his prayers at morning Mass. Prayers for the retiring pope and for all the cardinals who will convene to elect his successor will be a focal point for all Catholic churches in the coming weeks. But there also will be prayers for the new pope, who will be a witness to the Christian faith, speak on behalf of the disenfranchised, remind the faithful to reach out to the poor and needy and relay the message of Christ’s peace.
“It’s a tremendous job. You’re dealing with the whole world, especially in an age with so much secularization. It’s a challenge for church leaders,” said the Rev. Thomas O’Neil of St. Hilary Church in Washington.
The upcoming conclave will include three cardinals from the Pittsburgh area: Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Houston-Galveston diocese, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., and Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston.
Another cardinal with a Pittsburgh connection, Cardinal Adam Maida of the Archdiocese of Detroit, is over the 80-year cutoff to participate in the voting.
The Rev. Ronald Lengwin, spokesman for the Pittsburgh diocese, said it is unusual to have three men from the same diocese who will be voting to select a new pope. He expects the conclave will convene by March 15. It continues to meet until a new pope is selected.