St. Michael, St. Paul Church Leaders React to Pope Bendedict's Retirement
As one of the diocese's largest suburban Catholic communities, St. Michael Catholic Church will feel the impact of Pope Benedict's decision to step down.
Fr. Peter Richards, head of St. Michael Catholic Church and one of the largest parishes outside of the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis proper, was settling down from a brief vacation when he was given the startling news: Pope Benedict XVI had decided to step down from the church's highest calling, effective the end of this month.
"We will miss Pope Benedict XVI," Fr. Richards said in a response to St. Michae Patch. "This is something he has prayed, consulted and deliberated about and even at the tomb of the first Pope to resign."
That was more than 600 years ago, when St. Celestine resigned near the end of the 13th Century.
Unlike St. Celestine, Pope Benedict, who will return to his status as Cardinal Joeseph Ratzinger at the end of this month, has not left the church in disarray, Fr. Richards said.
"But he recognized that because of his health, due to age, he could not perform the duties that are needed for the papacy today. This was a humble act by a gentle and humble man," he said.
The Archbishop of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Diocese, the state's largest governing body for the Catholic Church, was suprised by the pontiff's news latst Monday, Feb. 11.
“I was completely surprised to learn of [the] announcement by the Holy Father that he plans to resign,” the Most Rev. John Nienstedt, Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, said in a statement on the archdiocese website. “I am saddened by the thought of losing his strong leadership for the church.”
Nienstedt noted that he and other U.S. bishops met with Benedict last March, and that the pope was fully informed about what was happening at the local level: “His pastoral reflections about each of our dioceses—and this local Church in particular—were insightful as well as inspirational.”
Fr. Richards said he's at peace with the church's future.
"One thing to keep in mind is the words from Hebrews 13:8 (which ended the first reading of last Friday’s daily Mass, 'Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever'). Those are the same words that Pope John Paul had used as the theme for the Jubilee Year 2000, and it reminds us that whoever is the Vicar of Christ on Earth; Jesus is always the same," he said. "Finally, please pray for those who will decide upon the next Pope."
Here is the Pope's official statement, translated to English by the Vatican:
I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.
I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, 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 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, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.
Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.