Oklahoma Catholics express surprise about pope's resignation

Oklahoma City-area Catholic clergy leaders and laity discuss Monday's announcement about Pope Benedict XVI's decision to retire Feb. 28.
by Carla Hinton Published: February 12, 2013

Both Stansberry and the Rev. William Novak, pastor of St. John Nepomuk Catholic Church in Yukon, said they were impressed with the pope's humble ability to step away from his leadership role.

“He put the needs of the church over his own human need to stay in control,” Stansberry said. “It's always best to go at the top of your game.”

Novak said he was both shocked and saddened by the pope's announcement “because he has been a great pope.”

“He has been courageous in stepping down. I'm impressed by his love for the church and his love of Christ that he would set himself aside for what's best for the church.”

The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415 in a deal to end the Great Western Schism, a dispute among competing papal claimants.

There are good reasons why others haven't followed suit, primarily because of the fear of a schism with two living popes.

The two metro-area priests said this first papal resignation in modern times will be educational in many ways because it is so uncommon. Nevertheless, they said the Lord will strengthen the Catholic Church during the time of papal transition.

“I'm sure there are a lot of questions, but the Holy Spirit is in charge of the church so we know we are in good hands,” Novak said.

Stansberry said: “It might set a precedent. It could change the papacy in the future because popes will realize they can retire.”

When Benedict was elected in 2005 at age 78, he was the oldest pope chosen in nearly 300 years. At the time, he already had been planning to retire as the Vatican's chief orthodoxy watchdog to spend his final years writing in the “peace and quiet” of his native Bavaria.

Caught off guard

Several lay Catholics across the metro area discussed the news from Rome with a sense of astonishment.

Ernesto Aguilar, of Oklahoma City, said he had not fully processed the pope's announcement, much less thought of who might become the next pope.

“I didn't know it was possible (to resign),” Aguilar, a member of St. Joseph Old Cathedral, said Monday.

“Like the whole sickness, I didn't know he was ill or anything. The news kind of caught me off guard.”

Nancy Harwell, an Edmond resident who attends Christ the King Catholic Church, said she, too, was shocked at the pope's announcement “because of the situation in our country these days. It made me wonder what's going to happen next.”

She said she is sad that Benedict is retiring, but the Catholic Church will be OK.

“He was a very strong holy leader, very orthodox, and that's what's going to remain. The church will stand.”

Contributing:

The Associated Press

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by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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