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National Catholic leaders react to papal resignation

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Pope Benedict XVI listens as Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk of Cincinnati presents a question during a meeting with U.S. bishops at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington April 16, 2008. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

By Catholic News Service 

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Here are excerpts of statements from U.S. Catholic and other religious leaders released in reaction to Pope Benedict XVI’s Feb. 11 announcement that he is resigning, effective Feb. 28:

— Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles: “Pope Benedict XVI has truly been a Holy Father to the family of God, his Catholic Church. His decision to resign is a beautiful, Christ-like act of humility and love for the church. This is the act of a saint, who thinks not about himself but only about the will of God and the good of God’s people. I have great affection for this pope. … He is one of the wisest persons in our world today.”

— Bishop David M. O’Connell of Trenton, N.J: “He had an incredible ability to make the most profound and intense aspects of our faith clear and accessible not only to Catholics but to all people. Pope Benedict XVI helped the world understand Catholicism. … I have always found him to be gentle and kind, despite the contrary perception created by some. … In a world where power and influence are sought after and held tightly, this passing of the papal crozier speaks volumes about Pope Benedict XVI’s humility and desire that the Catholic Church be led effectively and well.”

— Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark, N.J.: “His decision clearly reflects his love for the Lord and for the church. Over the decades our Holy Father has proven to be a sensitive pastor, a brilliant scholar and teacher with a profound and stalwart faith in our loving God and his son, Jesus Christ.” — Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco: “On behalf of the priests, religious and lay faithful of the archdiocese … I express our deep gratitude to Pope Benedict XVI for his lifetime of tireless and selfless service to the church. That service includes more than sixty years as a priest and of course especially these last seven years as our Holy Father. I will pray for him with great filial affection, and ask that we all hold him in prayer at this time.”

— Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki, of Springfield, Ill.: “Throughout his life, he has been a defender of the truth and a voice for the poor. He has been an advocate for peace among nations as well as a promoter of respect for God’s creation in nature… To our Holy Father, I join with the people of this diocese in offering our prayers and best wishes during these last days of his pontificate and for a tranquil retirement.”

— Bishop Javier Echevarria Rodriguez, prelate of Opus Dei: “The church feels today a special need to thank Benedict XVI for his rich and fruitful magisterium, and also for his humble and generous example of service to the Church and the world. … In this singular moment in the church’s history, the faithful of the prelature — priests and laity — are praying for Benedict XVI … We are invoking the Paraclete’s help for the future Roman pontiff.”

— Kerry Robinson, executive director of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management: “We thank him for his service to the Church and join him in his hope that his successor be elected with recourse to prayer and grace. We look forward to welcoming his successor, a leader charged with managing a global institution serving the spiritual needs of more than 1 billion Catholics while extending pastoral and charitable ministry to many millions more.”

— Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore: “His Holiness is a profound and loving teacher of the faith, a courageous defender of human of human rights and dignity, and a man of prayer, humility, and wisdom. … (I) request the prayers of the faithful of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and all women and men of good will for Pope Benedict as he concludes his long and loving service to the church.”

— John Garvey, president of The Catholic University of America: “Throughout his career, Benedict XVI has conferred upon the church the great gift of his theological wisdom, in a special way deepening our understanding of Catholic education and the role of the Catholic educator… The Catholic University of America will always treasure in a personal way his visit to our campus on April 17, 2008, to address Catholic educators from around the United States.”

— Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wis.: “He has written about this (resignation) as a possibility, which we can now say was a preparation for this. This was a courageous decision. … In the meantime, we continue our mission of proclaiming the Gospel. … As part of the new evangelization, this will be a wonderful opportunity for us to discuss our faith with others and to encourage them to once again strengthen their relationship with the church.”

— Bishop W. Francis Malooly of Wilmington, Del.: “No one knows the rigors of the pontificate like the Holy Father and I am sure he gave much consideration, and most importantly, much prayer to this decision. … We entrust the church to Christ’s care, and we know that the Holy Spirit will guide the cardinals who will elect our next pope.”

— Bishop Michael J. Sheridan of Colorado Springs, Colo.: “Pope Benedict has accomplished much in his nearly eight-year reign. In particular, he took the foundation Blessed John Paul II created for the “new evangelization” and fortified it for his successor. He leaves his position during a Year of Faith that calls every Catholic to assist the Holy Father in rediscovering the joy of living the Catholic faith. His encouragement and openness to modern forms of communication has inspired many Catholics to look for new, innovative ways to evangelize.”

— Msgr. Walter R. Rossi, rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception: “This decision … exhibits the great strength and humility of Pope Benedict, recognizing his own human limitations as well as his pastoral solicitude for the well-being of the universal church. I recall with great fondness (his) visit … to the National Shrine in 2008. … At that time, the Holy Father expressed that the purpose of his journey to America was to confirm us in the faith and the hope that is ours in the Lord Jesus.”

— Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha, Neb.: “We see this decision, in the context of a lifetime of service to the Lord, as an act of great pastoral love for all of us in the church. I remain grateful for his leadership and fatherly care.”

— Bishop Roger J. Foys of Covington, Ky.: “Pope Benedict has been a faithful son of the church and has labored long and hard in the vineyard of the Lord. He has met challenges and criticism with firm faith in the Lord. He has borne … suffering in an exemplary way in these difficult times in which we live when almost everything is questioned and even absolute truth, even the immutable truths of our faith, is called into doubt. We pray that the Holy Father may have the peace that comes from being faithful to the Lord, his word and his church and thank him for the example he has been to us all.”

— Bishop Peter A. Libasci of Manchester, N.H.: “(He) has shown us how the church established by Jesus Christ is a never-ending continuum. … Time and time again, we saw in his ministry how our faith continues to be revealed to us and how our deep traditions continue to guide us forward. Today, he asks us to join him in an historic moment and simultaneously reminds us that all of us are pilgrims on a journey to Christ.”

Cardinal Daniel N. Dinardo of Galveston-Houston: “His papacy has been marked by wonderful encyclicals like ‘Deus Caritas Est,’ many pilgrimages all over the world to visit and strengthen the faith of the local Churches, his great care for peace, for the poor and suffering, especially in developing countries, his great care for the Middle East, and his vision for a new evangelization and a deeper attachment to the person of Jesus Christ by all the clergy and faithful.”

— Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville, Ill.: “He has continued the work of his predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ to a world that is so deeply influenced by rationalism, materialism, relativism, and individualism that it is difficult for many to embrace faith in God, love of all people as one’s neighbor, and service to the poor and afflicted; difficult to affirm the authentic teachings of the church concerning what it means to be human, what it means to be a family, what it means to respect the dignity and worth of every human life, even the most vulnerable.”

— Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League: “Benedict XVI has profoundly bolstered the positive trajectory of Catholic-Jewish relations launched by his predecessor, Pope John Paul II. Benedict, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, worked closely with John Paul during his 26 year papacy, developing a historic new relationship between Catholic and Jews as ‘loving brothers and sisters’ after centuries of tragedy. … There were bumps in the road during this papacy … But (Benedict) listened to our concerns and tried to address them, which shows how close our two communities have become in the last half century, and how much more work we need to do together to help repair a broken world.”

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