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Catholic leaders react to news of Pope’s retirement


Local Catholic leaders expressed shock at the announcement of Pope Benedict XVI’s retirement Monday.

The 85-year-old pope cited his deteriorating physical condition as the reason for his retirement during a meeting with Vatican cardinals Monday morning. The pope’s resignation is effective Feb. 28.

The Most Rev. Terry R. LaValley, who was appointed by Pope Benedict as the 14th bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg in 2010, said he was surprised by the announcement.

“One can certainly understand it, given the grueling schedule of the Successor of St. Peter,” Bishop LaValley said in a press release.

He said Pope Benedict’s legacy will be one of “prophetic and compassionate leadership.”

“I have special affection and respect for the Holy Father,” Bishop LaValley said in the release. “He is a man with deep faith who inspired hope in millions of people, Catholic and non-Catholic, throughout the world.”

Bishop LaValley said he joins the Catholic Church in prayer as cardinals prepare to elect a successor to the pontiff.

The Rev. Donald A. Robinson, pastor of St. Anthony’s and St. Patrick’s Catholic churches, Watertown, said he heard the news while preparing for his 7 a.m. Mass.

“This is such an unprecedented decision,” he said. “It took everybody by surprise.”

Father Robinson said because of the limited details he had heard, he would limit his talk about the news to a prayer for the pope.

He said he talked about the news during his homily at the noon mass of St. Patrick’s, telling parishioners, “We need to pray for him and his well-being, and pray for the church.”

Father Robinson said that, though some parishioners expressed concern about the news, he did not feel any need to worry.

“The church has been around for a couple thousand years,” he said. “This is a time for hope and prayer.”

Father Robinson said Pope Benedict XVI will be remembered as bringing stability to the church after the death of Pope John Paul II, and as a great spiritual leader and scholar.

Asked what he hoped for in a new pope, he said that only Jesus knows what the church needs.

“Jesus will not let us down,” Rev. Mr. Robinson said. “The Holy Spirit will not let us down.”

The Rev. Garvin J. Demarais, pastor of St. Rita’s, Deferiet, and St. Paul’s, Black River, said he was not shocked by the retirement news given the pope’s age and workload.

“Obviously we are saddened by his resignation, but certainly it’s understandable,” he said.

Father Demarais described Pope Benedict as a caring man who carried a great theological framework. He said he would pray for the pope and his retirement, along with the cardinals responsible for voting on the next pope.

The Rev. Albert J. Hauser, former pastor of the Catholic communities in Hammond, Morristown and Rossie who now serves the Catholic community of Moirah, said he was “surprised and saddened by the loss of a great pope.”

“He has shown incredible intelligence, holiness and humility by which he is recognized by the world for,” he said.

The decision will force Vatican cardinals to elect a new pope before the end of March.

“I am wondering if the cardinals will elect a younger man, given the pope’s reasons for leaving the ministry,” Father Hauser said. “It takes a certain amount of strength of the mind and body to exercise the papal ministry. I hope the new pope will continue of the work of this pope, such as the Year of Faith, to try to find more effective ways to express the gospel in the modern world. How he will does that will depend on his gifts and his abilities.”

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