Local Catholic leaders said they are shocked Pope Benedict XVI is resigning, but believe he is showing good judgement because he lacks the strength to handle the job.
Unlike other popes who remained in the post for life, Pope Benedict XVI is setting a precedent, said Thomas Groome, professor in the school of theology and ministry at Boston College.
“He is bringing the papacy into the 21st century, showing that when a pope is tired, they can retire or resign,” Groome said. “This is not a negative blow at all. It’s a very, very positive thing.’’
The pope said on Monday that he will leave the job Feb. 28 because at age 85, he lacks the strength to continue leading the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. He is the first pope to step down in 600 years.
“It shows he is a man who is deeply spiritual and aware of the needs of the church because he is willing to step aside,” said the Rev. Jerome Day, an English teacher at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. “It came as a surprise and even a shock. It’s also a bit disappointing because we came to love Pope Benedict.’’
Bishop William McNaughton of Lawrence understands the reasons Pope Benedict is retiring. McNaugton, who is four months older than the pope, retired himself after serving as a bishop in Inchon, Korea.
“Knowing what he does and how busy his agenda is, it’s imposible to do it healthwise,’’ McNaugton said.
McNaugton has met Pope Benedict four times. Last October, he was one of 12 bishops from the Second Vatican Council who met with the pontiff.
“He’s brilliant, one of the greatest theologians of the last 50 years, probably the greatest,” McNaugton said.
He said was able to speak with Pope Benedict for a few minutes and told the pontiff about his work in Korea.