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Catholics praying for Benedict
Shock waves rippled through the hierarchy of the local Catholic Church when German born Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Alois Ratzinger), 86, shocked the world when he announced he no longer had the mental and physical strength to fulfill his duties as leader of the faith. The announcement on Monday left his aides “incredulous” and he has created history as the first pontiff to step down since the Middle Ages. It’s been 600 years since a pope resigned.
The last to resign was Celestine V in 1294 after only five months. His resignation was known as “the great refusal” and was condemned by the poet Dante in the Divine Comedy. Gregory XII reluctantly abdicated in 1415 to end a dispute with a rival claimant to the papacy. Benedict will step down on February 28. The Vatican expects a new pope to be chosen by the end of March. Benedict was elected to the papacy on April 19, 2005 succeeding John Paul II.
An AP report said: “The Pope told the cardinals that in order to govern...both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognise 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 I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter.”
Among those who expressed surprise was Vatican ambassador for the Caribbean/T&T Nicolas Girasoli. The local Catholic community is about 270,000 people. “It’s official. We will receive the correspondence. We all have been a little surprised. It is unusual, knowing the last time when Pope Celestine V resigned. He felt it was time for him because of his health and he wanted to retire and give a new start for the Church. In a certain way, the Holy Father was too weak to continue in his ministry.”
Asked how it would impact upon the national Catholic community, Girasoli said: “I think this decision will not affect the local Church. It is at a more universal level.” Asked whom he felt would succeed the pope, Girasoli said: “I cannot tell anything about this. As the official representative I cannot answer this question.” Catholic Archbishop Joseph Harris said he was shocked by the announcement.
“The news was a shock to most of us even though the pope over the past year had been becoming a bit more frail.” Turning his attention to the last time a pope tendered his resignation, Harris said: “We did not expect a resignation. After all, the last time was in 1415 with Pope Gregory XII. That was 600 years ago. It is not the normal thing for popes to resign. It must have been a difficult decision for the pope also.”
But Harris felt he could not longer muster “the physical and intellectual strength to continue with that ministry.” Asked about its repercussions, Harris said: “We have to respect it but it is not the end of the world. God continues to look after his Church and God will not abandon the Church. We believe the Holy Spirit will inspire the cardinals to do their best and elect a new pope when that time comes around.”
Sending a message to the local Catholic community, he said: “As far as our local Church is concerned we have to continue to pray for Pope Benedict because he must be going through a difficult time. When the time comes, a successor will be elected who will fulfill the ministry that Almighty God wants to be fulfilled.” He reminded them to remain steadfast in the Faith.
“Let us continue to be people of hope and believe God will look after his Church and will not abandon us. God will provide a good shepherd that is needed at this moment. Do not despair. Everything will be fine,” added Harris.
Loved for being able to “walk with kings and not lose the common touch,” Fr Clyde Harvey/parish priest Holy Rosary St Martin, said: “It’s too early to tell. I am very moved by the statement of resignation. In the end, he has shown himself to be a wise and humble man. And for that we can only say thank God for him and pray his successor whatever his theological stripe will be. We can only hope he will be just as humble if not more humble and wise.”
Commenting on whether there would be local repercussions, Harvey said: “No. It will not feel anything until afterwards. Everybody is surprised and we wait and see.” When contacted Anglican Bishop Claude Berkley described Benedict’s move as “surprising.” He reflected upon his knowledge on theological matters.
“We have grown up with Cardinal Ratzinger. During our studies we read a lot of his work. He was known for the Doctrine of the Faithful. He was a very brilliant man and we are very much concerned about keeping the Catholic faith intact.” But he felt Benedict’s maturity had prevailed.
“I look at it as a part of his maturity. If he thinks he cannot give it all, he can still make a contribution from his wisdom and experience. It is a sense of loss for the whole movement.” At home, he also felt there would not be “a tremendous ripple.”
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