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The Suburbanite
  • Local Catholics support Benedict XVI’s decision

  • Like many around the world, local Catholics are surprised that Benedict, 85, will step down on Feb. 28 after serving just eight years as head of the Catholic Church. It marks only the second time in history that a pope has resigned.

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  • The Rev. Patrick Manning first heard about Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation from a friend who got word via Twitter.
    “I said it was absolutely ridiculous, and that they needed to recheck their source,” he said. “Then I saw the news 10 minutes later.”
    Like many around the world, local Catholics are surprised that Benedict, 85, will step down on Feb. 28 after serving just eight years as head of the Catholic Church. It marks only the second time in the last 600 years that a pope has resigned. Benedict, who succeeded Pope John Paul II in 2005, is citing “advanced age” as the reason.
    Manning, chairman of Walsh University’s of theology department, attended a Mass at the Vatican on Jan. 6.
    “I was less than 10 feet from him,” he said. “We had met before. I  could really see how he aged. He was really stooped over, tired and exhausted. It was all he could do to stand upright.”
    Ray Guarendi North Canton-based author, psychologist and radio-show host, said the pontiff made a brave decision, rooted in pragmatism.
    “John Paul II changed the papacy in modern times; he really traveled the world,” Guarendi said. “The papacy became a worldwide influence. Pope Benedict just realized, ‘At my age, I cannot do what the chief shepherd needs to do for the church.’ ... It was brave of him to do.”
    A MODERN THING
    Sister Carolyn Capuano, vice president of mission and ministry at Mercy Medical Center in Canton, said she heard the news during a Mass at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Plain Township.
    “I guess as I reflected, what struck me is what courage and humility it must have taken him to make that decision,” she said.  “He must feel it’s best for the church. He’s probably been praying about this for some time.”
    Barbara Gaskell, owner of St. Raphael Bookstore in Jackson Township and co-founder of WILB Radio AM 1060, said the Benedict’s resignation speaks to his foresight and his love for the Church.
    “I was surprised, but I think someone put it best when they said it’s a very modern thing for him to do,” said Gaskell said. “I also think it was courageous. He realizes he does not have the physical stamina to do what he wants to be able to do, so he’s going to turn the reins over the next believer. I thought that just made lot of sense.”
    “People mistake the pope as a CEO; he’s a shepherd,” Guarendi said. “He doesn’t ‘run’ an organization. He’s the focal point of unity, so I think he decided, ‘If I can’t do what is required, I have to turn it over to a younger person.’”
    Page 2 of 3 - Manning said the College of Cardinals, who will elect the next pontiff,  may not feel pressured to look for a younger candidate.
     “Given life expectancies today, if you have a fellow 50 years old, you can have someone for 45 years,” he said.
    HISTORY, SPECULATION
    Gaskell said she believes God is control, both in the instance of Benedict’s decision and in selecting the next pope.
     “I’m sure he (Benedict) didn’t take this lightly,” she said. “I have great admiration and respect for him. “I’m sure he’s doing the right thing, and is being led  by the Holy Spirit.”
    “It’s interesting that there’s a lot speculation about what’s behind his resignation,” Manning said. “But it’s paltry compared to speculation of who’s going to be his successor.”
    Guarendi said he expects history to treat Benedict well.
    “He pretty much carried on the teachings and style of John Paul II, who was such a revolutionary figure and a godly man,” he said. “I thought it was beautiful transition.”
    “I think as any pontiff, he tried to do his very best, Capuano said. “He certainly reached out to the world. Even in terms of being older, he’s been very present throughout the world. He’s such a scholar. I’m sure it took great generosity for him to accept the office.”
    Gaskell said that although the Catholic Church is sometimes characterized as “fuddy-duddy,” she thinks Benedict’s decision demonstrates otherwise.
    “Rather than have a default person take the reins, he’s going to let the leaders of the church decide who’s going to take the reins,” she said. “It’s an exciting time to be alive, to see what’s going to happen. It’s going to be a really exciting Lent.”
    “I think history is going to treat it as a wise decision to offer some stability,” Manning said. “He’s a very theologically bright fellow. He’s a listener who’s not afraid to make a decision. I think he suffered a little in terms of his reception because he didn’t have the personality of John Paul II.”
    Manning said he first met Benedict in St. Peter’s Square, six months before he was elected pope. Manning recalled telling then-Cardinal Ratzinger that he was using some of his books for teaching at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus.
    “He was walking by himself,” Manning recalled. “He’s very shy but he was very nice to me.”
    Catholic Diocese of Youngstown
    • Members: 196,332 (out of a six-county population of 1,195,478)
    • Parishes: 96
    • Clergy: 120 (includes diocesan and religious orders)
    www.doy.org
    Page 3 of 3 -  •In 2012, St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Canton was elevated to minor basilica status. The Vatican designates a church as a basilica in recognition of its historic, ministerial or architectural importance. Founded in 1823, St. John is the oldest Catholic congregation in Northeast Ohio.