As Catholics around the world learned that Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation for health reasons, local Catholics prayed for his future and that of the church.
"As I did this morning and as I’m sure throughout the diocese, we pray for Pope Benedict, for his future, that the Lord may allow him to pray and allow him to the things he (wants to do)," said Monsignor Alan Detscher, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Church in Riverside.
"It was a great surprise" to parishioners when they learned of the resignation during the 7 a.m. Mass Monday, Detscher said. "There were almost no details. We didn't know any more than that."
In his resignation letter, Pope Benedict cites physical infirmity alone as his reason for resigning, saying, in part “…In order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”
Both Detscher and Deacon John Linsenmeyer of St. Agnes Church in Greenwich said it is impossible to predict who will succeed Pope Benedict whose resignation is effective Feb. 28.
Detscher said, "Obviously the church is a very large organization….it is worldwide and it requires that the Pope be able to carry out all of his responsibilities worldwide. In this day and age, we need a leader who can be active and carry out all of the responsibilities. So ultimately we leave it up to God for the choice of a new Pope."
Linsenmeyer said, "There’s good churchmen all over the world. There are bad ones all over the world. I haven’t a clue (on a possible successor) … anyone who does say they have an idea, they’re blowing smoke."
However, Detscher said he doesn’t think an American will be elected Pope. "The church is the whole world meaning the Pope is the Pope for the whole world not the just the one you like (in your country.)
Detscher said, "We’ll now begin to pray for a new Pope that will be able to deal with all of the needs of the church of the today." He also said, "We pray for Pope Benedict for his future, that the Lord may allow him to pray and allow him to the things he (wants to do). He is a theologian … he has a few projects he would like to finish."
With the Pope's resignation there's an additional impact upon the Diocese of Bridgeport, which is comprised of 82 parishes and 410,000 registered Catholics in Fairfield County.
According to Detscher, the diocese may have to wait even longer for the papal appointment of a bishop. "It’s a little complicated for diocese Bridgeport…..we don’t have a bishop without a pope, how much longer will it be before we get another bishop," Detscher said.
Msgr. Jerald Doyle has been the diocese's administrator since Bishop William Lori was elevated to Archbishop of Baltimore in May 2012.
Other clerics in the region also reacted to the Pope's resignation.
The Rev. Geoff T. Sinibaldo of St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in New Canaan said that although he’s a Protestant, he’s always seen the pope as a leader for all religions “whether we like it or not.”
The pope’s resignation is an opportunity for the Catholic Church to reflect and choose a new pope in a way that isn’t possible when a pope dies while leading the church “because you’re mourning a loss,” Sinibaldo said.
Saying that Benedict was the right choice because of his closeness to his predecessor Pope John Paul II, Sinibaldo added: “This transition is really an opportunity for the Roman Catholic Church to address some things in a way it hasn’t.”
“I don’t think the last two popes have dealt with the sex scandals,” he continued. “Not that they didn’t take them seriously, but they didn’t address the depth and magnitude of them in a way that a leader has to.”
Here's the full text of the pope's resignation letter:
I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.
Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer."
What do you think of the Pope resignation? Should he resign because of ill health? Tell us in the comments section below.
*Senior Regional Editor Michael Dinan contributed to this report.