Pope Benedict’s decision to resign at the end of this month shocked most local Catholics, but a lot of them understand his thinking.
A man walking into St. James Cathedral in Seattle for the 8:15 a.m. Mass said it makes sense if the pope no longer thinks he can do the job.
“I can see where he would like to lay the burden down,” said the man who is approaching 80 years old. “I marvel at all he does.” He joked, “He was here for eight years, and that’s good enough. I mean we only let our presidents hang around for eight years.”
Seattle’s Archbishop says “something” told him to turn on the news very early this morning. That’s how he got word that Pope Benedict XVI would retire.
Peter Sartain told reporters Monday that he met the pope several times and found him humble and unassuming.
“Those who knew him well, far, far better than I, had told me very often that their impression, having known him well, is exactly the same as mine.”
Father Stephen Sundborg, the President of Seattle University, says he thought, “Wow that’s significant news,” when he saw the announcement on the Catholic university’s message board Monday morning.
“It comes as quite a surprise to me,” he said.
Father Sundborg said if any pope was going to choose this path it would be Pope Benedict.
“He’s a person who gives deep consideration for what is the best thing for the Catholic Church,” Sundborg said. “If he comes to the conclusion that it would be better that someone else be pope because of his own weakening capacity, he’s going to make a good judgement about that.”
Pope Benedict is a great theologian who was wary of the spotlight, according to Father Sundborg.
“People say he’s kind of a shy person, somewhat of a retiring person,” Sundborg said. “I don’t think he would want to be out there trying to hang on to the very last time of his life trying to be pope.”
Archbishop Sartain expects continuity and no dramatic changes in the church when a new pope is selected.
“I don’t think we’re going to see any huge change, any huge break, we’ll have a new shepherd and that shepherd will be continuing along the lines that we have experienced in recent years,” said Sartain.
Sartain says he saw fatigue in the pope but nothing more serious, healthwise. He respects what he calls Benedict’s “very personal and spiritual” decision to retire.
Local Catholics are now left to wonder who will replace Pope Benedict. Many believe the next pope will come from Latin America or Africa.