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Parish Leader on Pope's Resignation: It's a Courageous Act

Benedict XVI to step down Feb. 28 for health reasons; Conclave to follow in Rome

Our Lady of the Snow's Father Jim Drew said the surprising news of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation reflects “courage” from a pontiff whom Drew describes as having provided “visionary and pastoral leadership.”

The Blue Point Catholic parish, along with the rest of the world, awoke Monday morning to learn of Benedict’s intention to resign as of the end of February. The announcement came in Rome from the ailing pontiff, who has been in deteriorating health.

It will be the first time in 600 years that a sitting Pope has abdicated the Throne of St. Peter.

“I was absolutely surprised but on the other hand not surprised as it takes courage to know your limits and he has shown tremendous vision and care for people,” said Drew of Benedict’s work at the Vatican since taking over in April 2005 following the death of Pope John Paul II.

“It takes courage to acknowledge that there is a limit to physical and mental stamina,” he added, noting pontiffs traditionally serve until death.

“This Pope is looking at it from the view of what is best for the good of the church and the future of the faith."

Benedict's resignation sets the stage for a conclave, a secret meeting in Rome of 120 church Cardinals under 80 years old to decide his successor. During the conclave the cardinals vote two times a day to elect a new Pope. At the end of each day a smoke signal is released indicating if a pope has been chosen. White smoke indicates a new elected Pope; black smoke indicates voting will continue until a Pope is chosen.

The word "conclave" means, literally, "with a key." Symbolically, the College of Cardinals cannot leave the conclave without deciding on a new leader of the world's 1 billion Roman Catholics.

While Drew declined to speculate on who may be voted in as the new Pope, he said there is a good chance it could be a non-European Cardinal as catholicism has greatly increased south of the equator. He also suspects that Benedict will provide instructions regarding modification to the electoral process before he takes leave. Past modifications include not allowing more than 120 Cardinals to vote and only Cardinals under the age of 80 being involved in the voting process.

Such a leadership change within the Catholic Church has the greatest impact on the global religion landscape and not as much impact on a local parish community, explained Drew.

“He [the Pope] serves as a visible shepherd, a worldwide symbol of unity and a ceremonial presence,” said Drew. “The day-to-day operations of a local parish are run and decided on by local parish leaders and the Bishop.”

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