By AMANDA LOVIZA VICKERY
Glasgow Daily Times
The announcement on Monday that Pope Benedict XVI would resign from his position as head of the Catholic Church sent shockwaves across Catholic communities from Vatican City to Glasgow, Ky. At St. Helen's Catholic Church, reactions were surprised, but not critical of the pope's decision to step down.
Fr. Kenneth Soroko Jr., one of three priests at St. Helen's, said he was sad to hear the news, but he was grateful for Pope Benedict's years of service and confident that his choice to resign was in the best interest of the church.
“I was very surprised by the announcement, but support his decision knowing that the Holy Father loves the Church and that he has always done what was best for her,” Soroko said.
Pope Benedict XVI made the announcement of his resignation following a canonization ceremony at the Vatican on Monday.
“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,” Benedict said in Latin on the Vatican’s official website. “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 barque 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 fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.”
Although Pope Benedict had publicly commented that a pope who is unfit to continue serving the church should step down, the announcement still came as a shock, since there have been no papal resignations in modern history.
Benedict XVI was elected by the College of Cardinals on April 19, 2005, following the death of Pope John Paul II. His papacy has been a period of selfless service that has inspired Soroko as a priest.
“I have a deep love for our Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ,” Soroko said. “I thank God for the gift of our Holy Father Pope Benedict. His years of devoted service, his brilliant teachings, his love for the Liturgy, his love for the priesthood, his personal witness to prayer and his holiness have been an inspiration to me as a young priest.”
Parishioners of St. Helen's have expressed similar feelings of surprise and support, Soroko said.
“They truly love our Holy Father and know that after much prayer and discernment he has made this decision for the good of the Church,” Soroko said. “They are very grateful for his dedicated service and leadership of the Church, and they remain united in prayer with the Holy Father for the future pope.”
Bryan Baysinger, a member of St. Helen's, said Benedict XVI's decision to renounce the papacy was a noble choice, showing his selfless devotion to the church.
“For the time he had, he did a lot of good,” Baysinger said.
Soroko and Baysinger both said now is a time for Catholics to join together in prayer for the College of Cardinals as they begin to consider a new pope.
“I just hope they find somebody who will continue to follow the true teachings of the church and lead it forward,” Baysinger said.
Knowing that the church belongs to Christ fills Soroko with hope and confidence, he said, and he has faith that the Lord will guide the decision for a new pope.
“The Holy Father’s successor, elected by the College of Cardinals, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, following in the foot steps of Pope Benedict, will continue to shepherd the church in today’s world, proclaiming the unchanging message of the Holy Gospel entrusted to the first apostles,” Soroko said. “Faithful to Christ and his teachings, and guided by the Holy Spirit, the future pope will continue to lead the faithful closer to our blessed Lord.”
Pope Benedict XVI's last day as pontiff will be Feb. 28. The College of Cardinals will then convene to elect a new pope.