Though a pope has not resigned in 600 years, Fr. Ken Overbeck of St. Bonaventure's Parish in Manomet thinks Pope Benedict XVI is setting a great example of humility in announcing plans to resign at the end of February.
"As a person, he has exihibited a great humility in his willingness to recongonize his own limitations and his willingness to surrender the promp and power of high office for the greater good of the Church," Overbeck said Tuesday, as he prepared to celebrate Ash Wednesday Mass with his parisioners who were just getting power back after the weekend blizzard.
Overbeck said he hasn't heard from many parisioners as yet, but predicted he would Wednesday.
Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday that he will retire on Feb. 28 after less than eight years in office. Benedict, 85, was elected by fellow cardinals in 2005 after the death of John Paul II.
"I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise” of the position, Benedict said in a statement, according to the New York Times.
"In some ways, his decision reminds me of George Washington who wisely stepped aside after eight years in public office when he could easily have been President for life," Overbeck said. "I think both President Washington and Pope Benedict XVI serve as reminders that their enduring offices are more important than the persons who fill them for a time."
Overbeck said the Pope's decsision reminds Catholics of the difference between Church tradition and human customs.
"As a theologian, the Pope's decision reminds us of the difference between the Tradition of the Church (that is, the deposit of faith, the lived truths of the Gospel handed on from generation to generation) and the human customs and administrative policies that make up the history of the Church. The Tradition needs to be preserved and handed on. Human customs and adminstrative policies need to be perpetually reevaluated and reformed. The Pope, by challenging 600 years of human custom, points anew to the importance of 2,000 years of faith in Jesus Christ. The people of St. Bonaventure Parish continue to pray for the health and well being of Pope Benedict even as we pray for the Cardinals who will select the next Bishop of Rome. "O God, eternal shepherd, who govern your flock with unfailing care, grant in your boundless fatherly love a pastor for your Church who will please you by his holiness and to us show watchful care." (From the Roman Missal and Mass for the Election of a Pope)
In North Plymouth, Fr. Joe MacCarthy, pastor of St. Mary's Parish, said he and his paritions will look back over Benedict's papacy "with graditude upon the contributions made to the Church by Benedict XVI, we look forward that the Holy Spirit will continue to lead us in the light of faith."
MacCarthy said parishioners are "no doubt surprised by the pope's intention, but are stalwart in their willingness to pray for what is best for the Church.
"As we look back with gratitude upon the contributions made to the Church by Benedict XVI, we look forward that the Holy Spirit will continue to lead us in the light of faith. We wish the pope recovery from any infirmity and good health in the future."
What are your thoughts on Pope Benedict XVI's resignation?