Locals react to pope's resignation
By RACHAEL GRAY
The season of Lent is about renewal and re-focusing one's faith.
And it's a perfect time for the Catholic church to seek new leadership, Rev. Matthew Kumi, parochial vicar at St. Mary Catholic Church, said Sunday.
"Lent is a time for us to consider our spiritual path. So if they are thinking about picking the pope at this time, I think it is guided by the spirit. It's a good time to elect the pope. Lent is a special time for us. It is a time when you actually break forth in spiritual growth. I think the prayers we are involved in now is going to support the choice in the leader at this time," he said.
Pope Benedict XVI stunned the world with the announcement of his resignation a week ago. No pope has resigned in more than half a millennium.
The Vatican cites Pope Benedict's age and medical condition as the reasons he resigned.
Most Rev. John B. Brungardt, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Dodge City, released a statement last week about the pope's resignation.
"I feel a profound sense of gratitude for Pope Benedict XVI, who has selflessly served the People of God for over 61 years as a priest, and nearly eight years as our pope. My prayers are with him during this profound transition in his life, as he continues to serve our Loving Lord in a ministry of prayer.”
Brungardt said he is praying for the Cardinals as they begin their sacred role to select the next pope.
"I trust they are guided by the Holy Spirit, who has guided and protected our Catholic Church for 2,000 years," he said.
Brungardt has asked the superintendent of the area Catholic schools to work with the principals and students on Spiritual Bouquets or other prayers for Pope Benedict.
"We are receiving and will distribute prayer and liturgical materials from various church sources to assist the parishes, schools, and the Catholic faithful during this time of change," he said.
Since becoming pope in 2005, Pope Benedict has charted a conservative course for the church, trying to reawaken Christianity in Europe and return the church to its traditional roots, which he felt had been betrayed by a botched interpretation of the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council.
His efforts, though, were overshadowed by a worldwide clerical sex abuse scandal, communication gaffes that outraged Jews and Muslims alike and, more recently, a scandal over leaked documents by his own butler. Many of his stated priorities as pope also fell short: He failed to establish relations with China, heal the schism and reunite with the Orthodox Church, or reconcile with a group of breakaway, traditionalist Catholics.
Francisco Cardenas, congregation member of St. Mary, said he believes the pope's retirement was due to his age and the stress of the job.
"In my opinion, the pope got harassed beyond belief about the child molestations due in part to the fact that he is the pope and because the church covered it up," he said.
Cardenas said as a Catholic it bothers him that the controversy and alleged crimes are happening in his church.
"But I think the best and only thing to do from here on out is hope that the preachers that are committing these crimes be punished, as it is tainting our church and causing the Catholic Church to divide. And that's the last thing we need to do, is lose hope," he said.
Not even Pope Benedict's closest associates had advance word of the news, a bombshell that he dropped during a routine meeting of Vatican cardinals. And with no clear favorites to succeed him, another surprise likely awaits when the cardinals elect Benedict's successor next month.
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. Though he will not himself vote, he has hand-picked the bulk of the College of Cardinals — the princes of the church who will elect his successor — to guarantee his conservative legacy and ensure an orthodox future for the church.
The resignation may mean that age will become less of a factor when electing a new pope, since candidates may no longer feel compelled to stay for life.
According to an Associated Press report released Saturday, The Vatican raised the possibility that the conclave to elect the next pope might start sooner than March 15, the earliest date possible under current rules that require a 15- to 20-day waiting period after the papacy becomes vacant.
Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said that Vatican rules on papal succession are open to interpretation and that "this is a question that people are discussing."
Any change to the law itself would have to be approved by the pope before he resigns.
But if Vatican officials determine that the matter is just a question of interpreting the existing law, "it is possible that church authorities can prepare a proposal to be taken up by the cardinals on the first day after the papal vacancy" to move up the start of the conclave, Lombardi said.
The waiting period is in place to allow time for all cardinals who don't live in Rome to arrive, under the usual circumstance of a pope dying. But in this case the cardinals already know that this pontificate will end Feb. 28, with the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, and therefore can get to Rome in plenty of time to take part in the conclave, Lombardi said.
The date of the conclave's start is important because Holy Week begins March 24, with Palm Sunday Mass followed by Easter Sunday on March 31. In order to have a new pope in place in time for the most solemn liturgical period on the church calendar, he would need to be installed by March 17 because of the strong tradition to hold installation Mass on a Sunday. Given the tight time frame, speculation has mounted that some arrangement would be made to start the conclave earlier than a strict reading of the law would allow.