Local faithful supportive of pope's decision
When Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation Monday, the impact was felt around the world and right here in Lake Country, too.
The 85-year-old pope said he noticed that his strength had deteriorated over recent months "to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me."
"For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of bishop of Rome, successor of Saint Peter," he said, according to a statement from the Vatican.
"Certainly, Pope Benedict's decision took us all by surprise. It speaks very well of him personally. He is a humble and holy man - not in leadership for self-promotion but for the good of the church worldwide. He honestly concluded that the many challenges facing us today in so many urgent areas call for a pope with more robust health and stamina. God reward his generosity of spirit in taking this step," said the Rev. John Yockey of St. Jerome's Catholic Church in Oconomowoc.
Benedict's resignation doesn't take effect until Feb. 28, and the Rev. Sean O'Connell from Queen of Apostles in Pewaukee said that many church goers have questions about it; after all, this is the first time in 600 years that this has happened.
"I think people had a lot of respect for Pope Benedict as a man of prayer and love. There's a lot of respect for him," O'Connell said.
Church officials are hoping to have a new pope step in by Easter, which is March 31 this year. Speculated candidates include Cardinal Angelo Scola (Milan), Cardinal Marc Ouellet (Canada), Cardinal Peter Appiah Turkson (Ghana) and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri (Argentina). And America - with Milwaukee roots to boot - is also in the running, with Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan (New York).
"I would hope that the Holy Father we have is willing and ready to travel," said the Rev. Ralph Gross from St. Bruno's Parish in Dousman.
Gross explained that he wouldn't be surprised if the Conclave of Cardinals did not elect a pope from a "super nation," such as America or Canada. Gross said, in his opinion, that he would be happy if someone from Rome, South America, Central America or Africa were chosen because of their connection to the masses in those countries and worldwide.
"We used to think of those places as missionary churches. They're not so much missionaries anymore. They're leaders," Gross said.
The American prospect, Dolan, has many fans here in Wisconsin.
He was named archbishop of Milwaukee by Pope John Paul II in 2002 during a difficult time, when many victims of sexual abuse by clergy members were stepping forward. In addition to his leadership in Milwaukee during a time of scandal, he was known for possessing a boundless energy. Dolan was appointed as New York's archbishop in 2009, becoming fully elevated to the College of Cardinals in February 2012.
When serving in Milwaukee, he visited with local clergy here in Lake Country, regardless of tight schedules or health issues. He's loved by many and has been described as having a jovial nature, deep spirituality and an Irish affability.
O'Connell said that while Dolan is well-loved, especially near Milwaukee, who ultimately succeeds Pope Benedict will be up to the Holy Spirit.
Yockey agreed, saying, understandably, that Dolan would be their first choice as the next successor, but they "trust the movement of the Holy Spirit in this whole process and look forward to embracing whomever the Lord Jesus chooses to be his vicar on earth."
"The pope is a position of spiritual head, so obviously we need to see … someone with those spiritual qualities. A real man of faith. He is the visual head of the church and, in our mind, the visual head of Christ. … The other things will follow," Gross said.
Regardless of who is ultimately chosen, one can't deny the surprise in this moment, the mystery in this spiritual development and the excitement for what is in store.
"All of us, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, have much to be thankful for and a lot to look forward to. The holiest of names for our God in the Hebrew Scriptures can be translated 'the God of surprises.' Truly, he's proving that once again," Yockey said.
The Associated Press Contributed to this story.
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