Pope Benedict XVI used only a few words in Latin to do what no pope has done in 600 years — he resigned.
Father Carlos Chavez, priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Community Church, believes the pope’s resignation will bring no fundamental changes to local Catholic churches, but said it could take some time getting used to.
Clovis Attorney Richard Rowley said he was surprised to hear of the pope resigning, but called it a courageous act.
Benedict announced his resignation Monday during a routine meeting of Vatican cardinals. He said his “strength of mind and body” had diminished and he couldn’t continue to lead the Catholic Church, which has 1 billion followers. He said he would resign effective 8 p.m. Vatican City on Feb. 28.
Chavez said adjusting to the change could be difficult. He said at mass priests often refer to the pope by name. He said it took him a while to adjust to saying Pope Benedict’s name when Pope John Paul II died in 2005.
“I remember very clearly still after a year sometimes naming John Paul II when he already died,” said Chavez, who has been priest at Sacred Heart for nearly 18 years.
“Those transitions take a little time, but those are minor things really.”
Chavez said he’ll share a few words about the pope resigning during Sunday mass and will pray for the election process of the next pope.
“I understand his situation because I deal with sickness,” Chavez said. “I know as pope you want to serve the people of God as best you can and you have to look at your own life and ability (to serve).”
Chavez believes Benedict was a blessing to the church and gave its members his best. He also credited Benedict for the position he took when the Catholic Church went under fire for problems such as sex abuse scandals and communication gaffes that outraged Jews and Muslims.
“I’m grateful for him being strong during times when there was a lot of tension in the church,” Chavez said.
Rowley thinks the pontiff did the right thing.
“I think it showed a lot of courage on his part because he feels like he’s just not up to it physically anymore,” said Rowley, a member of Sacred Heart who also attends Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish. “If that’s the case he did the right thing. He obviously was not a young man when he took that position.”
When Benedict was elected in 2005 at age 78, he was the oldest pope chosen in nearly 300 years. Rowley described Benedict as a true scholar with dogmatic views who made an excellent pope. He said he is interested in seeing who will be chosen to replace Benedict.
Popes usually stay in office until the end of their life. The Vatican stressed that no specific medical condition prompted Benedict’s decision.
The pope has slowed down in recent years, cutting back his foreign travel and limiting his audiences. He now goes to and from the altar in St. Peter’s Basilica on a moving platform to spare him the long walk down the aisle. Occasionally he uses a cane.
As early as 2010, Benedict began to look worn out: He had lost weight and didn’t seem fully engaged when visiting bishops briefed him on their dioceses.
The Feb. 28 resignation allows for a fast-track conclave to elect a new pope, since the traditional nine days of mourning that would follow a pope’s death doesn’t have to be observed. It also gives the 85-year-old Benedict great sway over the choice of his successor.
The Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, told the Associated Press Monday the Catholic Church should have a new leader by Easter Sunday.
The Associated Press contribued to this report.
An interactive timeline of the life of Pope Benedict XVI, who announced today he will resign at the end of the month. Also includes a look at the oldest popes in history.