St. John's Parishioners, Priest Ponder Pope's Resignation

The 85-year-old Pontiff will step down Feb. 28. A new Pope will likely be named before Easter.


Three were only four or five at Mass Monday evening at St. John the Evangelist Church. Not surprising given the weather, Father Robert Buongirno, administrator of the Divine Mercy Community of Catholic churches in Montville.

And after Mass was celebrated, the few parishioners gathered to chat, yes, the weather likely came up but there was even bigger news to discuss and certainly more relevant.

Pope Benedict XVI, 85, announced his resignation from the Papacy Monday, the first resignation of a Pope in 600 years. The resignation is effective Feb. 28. Reports today from the Vatican suggest the Pope is not in poor health rather the decision was a spiritual one. Yet in his letter of resignation, Pope Benedcit wrote, in part, "my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry."

At St. John's on Maple Avenue, there was surprise.

 “We talked about the surprise of the (announcement). But maybe it shouldn’t have been such a surprise. He said this from the beginning,” Bunogirno said.

“I believe it took a lot of guts, a lot of courage. He knows there are going to be great challenges ahead. He’s not alone in making a decision like this; a lot of people face this type of decision every day and it’s always a tough decision to make: When do I retire?”

Buongirno said he is convinced that there is divine guidance involved in the decision by Pope Benedcit to leave the Papacy. 

"We fully believe in the Holy Spirit's involvement in this process," he said. "He was elected as an interim, a transitional Pope to move us out of the John Paul II era. He may see it as, 'the transition has happened. It's time to move on.'"

A statement from Most Reverend Michael R. Cote, D.D., Bishop of Norwich:

The news of the Holy Father's decision to resign his ministry as Successor to Saint Peter and leader of the Universal Church came as a very big surprise this morning to me and, I believe, all Catholics. It has been nearly 600 years since there has been a papal resignation. This is an extraordinary moment.

It is a moment of courage and humility for this pope. He has made a choice he believes will ensure that the demands of the office will continue to be met with the vigor required in these exceptional times. We pray for Pope Benedict and for his successor. And we pray for the conclave of Cardinals who will choose our next pope. It is likely that we will have a new pope by Easter.

All parishioners, friends and followers of the faith in the Diocese of Norwich, while surprised by this historic announcement, should be impressed with the strength of a leader willing to step aside believing it will help the Church.

In this Year of Faith proclaimed by the Pontiff, we are inspired by his leadership and guidance. We will continue to follow his encouragement to rediscover the faith and the Church, and actively spread the Good News of the Gospel.

We thank you Holy Father for all you have done to proclaim the faith, to ensure its vital entry into a new century and for your courage to lead the Church.

Most Reverend Michael R. Cote, D.D., Bishop of Norwich


Here's the full text of the pope's resignation letter:

"Dear Brothers,

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. 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. 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 bark 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 fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer."


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