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Oklahoma Catholics monitor unfolding events in Rome as pope resigns

Several Oklahoma Catholics said they are monitoring events in Rome with keen interest as a papal resignation — the first in 600 years — occurs Thursday and cardinals gather to elect a new pope.
by Carla Hinton Modified: February 27, 2013 at 9:48 pm •  Published: February 27, 2013

Hittinger said he has not ever seen such a huge amount of media attention focused on the papal succession, even compared to the papal transition after Pope John Paul II's death. He said he attributes this to the historic resignation but also because people seem to be very curious about papal elections.

He said the onslaught of media attention has run the gamut from negative news about rumored Vatican scandals to more benign stories about what color shoes Pope Benedict will wear after he resigns. Wearing red shoes is a papal tradition but the Vatican recently announced that Pope Benedict would cease wearing crimson footwear when he becomes “Pope Emeritus.”

Papacy has evolved

The Rev. Bill Pruett, pastor of St. James Catholic Church in Oklahoma City, said Pope Benedict's historic resignation is a sign that as the world has changed, so has the papacy and all that it entails.

“The idea is if God chooses a person for this office then God must remove them from office through death. However, the modern world is very complicated and the whole idea of the papacy has shifted,” Pruett said.

Pruett said as Catholicism has spread throughout the world so the pontiff has traveled around the globe to speak to issues pertinent not only to the Catholic faithful but to the world in general.

“He speaks frequently on the world stage for oppressed people who aren't even Christian. He has become the shepherd for humanity,” the priest said.

Pruett said the pope also must guarantee the authenticity of Christian teachings so that core Gospel values are not compromised.

He said Pope Benedict obviously knew that a new canon law that allows for a pope's resignation was put in place under his predecessor Pope John Paul II. When Pope Gregory XII resigned in 1415, it threw the Catholic Church into disarray because there was no precedence for that.

Pruett said he, like many Catholics around the world, was surprised by Benedict's resignation, but he understood it because papal responsibilities have increased over time.

“It's a fascinating story that the whole world is talking about,” he said.