On Feb. 11, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he would be stepping down from his position as leader of the Roman Catholic Church at the end of the month. It was the first time in centuries that a pope has stepped down from his position.
People all over the world were shocked to hear the news. Following the near 30-year term of Pope John Paul II, Benedict XVI served from 2005. The pope made his announcement after announcing the canonization of new saints during the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.
“At this time I ask all the faithful, consecrated men and women, deacons, priests and bishops of this diocese to join me in prayer for this extraordinary Pontiff,” said Bishop William Murphy of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, “a holy and wise man who with great sacrifice gave himself totally to the Church which has benefited mightily from his many human gifts of intelligence and wisdom and even more from his spiritual gifts of faith and hope and love as he taught, governed and prayed for the Church showing us always the face of God who is love.”
“We give thanks for the blessing that Pope Benedict has been for the church and the world,” said Rev. Msgr. William Breslwaski, pastor at Our Lady of Peace in Lynbrook. “He’s doing which we think is terrific since he’s trying to do what’s best for the church. If he feels that he doesn’t have the strength, or the stamina, or the health to do it, it is a very humble gesture on his part of not holding onto his position but in passing it on to someone who is able to do it as we head into the future.” Breslawski added that it’s a very exciting time for the church “to see where God leads us as we choose our new leader, and we certainly pray for guidance for the cardinals who are making the decision. We know that they will choose someone who will represent the heart and spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ very well.”
Many who know the pope were surprised by his sudden announcement.
“I got a call from Europe at about 4 a.m. to alert me to this. And we were all quite shocked,” said Gary Krupp, a former Rockville Centre resident and president of the Pave the Way Foundation. “Nobody really expected it. It was a very sad thing for us, because he is a friend.”
Krupp had worked with the Vatican and had visited on many occasions. During Pope Benedict XVI’s tenure, Krupp met with him 19 times. He was even knighted by the pope and his predecessor.
“There were hints about it, because we were at the Vatican about 10 times a year,” Krupp said. “And when you talk to different people, people start saying things and hint, ‘well, he’s not feeling as strong as he used to be.’ So there were hints, but just to take this position at this point was quite remarkable.”
Many local Catholics were surprised by the news, but supportive of the pope’s decision.