Pope's Move 'Courageous,' St. Pat's Priest Says
Father Bob Mitchell said the pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church has set a precedent for future popes.
The Rev. Robert Mitchell of St. Patrick Church in Chatham Borough said he thought "it took much courage for the Pope to step down," as was announced Monday.
Pope Benedict XVI decided decision to resign for health reasons effective Feb. 28. The move makes him the first pontiff in nearly 600 years to resign. When the College of Cardinals elects a new pope in conclave, the election is usually for life.
Mitchell said he feels "much thought was given to this decision thought the past year." Pope Benedict said in a 2010 interview he believed an ailing pope had an option of stepping down for a younger choice, though there is little precedent.
"I also believe it sets a standard for future Popes, as well as all people who fear admission that they lack the strength to continue a particular style of life saturated with such diverse demands," Mitchell said.
Born Joseph Ratzinger on April 16, 1927, in Bavaria, Germany, he was a cardinal under Pope John Paul II.
Priests usually retire at age 70, and Ratzinger became pope at age 78.
As Pope he held up bans against divorce, birth control, stem cell research, gay marriage, married priests, female priests and homosexuality.
He also expressed shame at clerical sex abuse, including once on a trip to the U.S., and made overtures to the Jewish community in the U.S. and in Germany. His first foreign trip from the Vatican was to Germany, where he visited a synagogue. When he visited the Blue Mosque in Istanbul he prayed next to a Muslim cleric.
Pope Benedict was elected on April 19, 2005. He was the first German pope to lead the Roman Catholic Church since the 11th century.
The last pope to resign was Gregory XII in 1415.
Mitchell said he will offer his prayers for Pope Benedict.