After Pope Benedict XVI delivered a resignation speech Monday citing health concerns as the reason he is stepping down, one local religious leader called the news "pretty extraordinary."
Father Bob Smith of St. James RC Church in Setauket said the parish will offer prayers of gratitude for Pope Benedict's more than 60 years of service overall to the Catholic Church, as well as prayers for his soon-to-be-elected successor.
"What I find myself thinking and feeling first and most is a deepened respect for Pope Benedict – for his courage and humility in acknowledging his ebbing energy and for his great care for the Church, expressed in his sharing with us his belief that someone with more vigor and strength would be better suited for the hugely demanding ministry that he's fulfilled so faithfully for these nearly eight years," Fr. Smith said.
Pope Benedict, who is 85 years old, is the first Pope in close to 600 years to step down. According to the Associated Press, in his resignation address, which he delivered in Latin during a meeting of cardinals at the Vatican, Pope Benedict said: "After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths due to an advanced age are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry."
Carol Walters, who formed the group "Informed and Involved Catholics for Freedom of Religion" at St. James, said Pope Benedict had in part inspired her to form the group by issuing a call for the laity to get more involved during a January 2012 address to bishops in the U.S.
"He has been a wonderful example to all Catholics and to people of all faiths around the world," Walters said. "God has blessed us with the service of Pope Benedict. "... Pope Benedict spoke of concern that our religious freedom in America would be reduced to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience. Pope Benedict has been a strong, positive influence on our Catholic Church long before he became Pope and he will continue to be that 'light' to us and the world in his retirement."
Via Three Village Patch's Facebook page, Karoline Pfeiffer-Ibsen said: "I wish him love and peace!"
Pope Benedict will formally step down Feb. 28. His successor will be elected at a conclave of cardinals by the end of March.
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