The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI has captured eyes worldwide, as the head of the Catholic church claims that his health is preventing him from fulfilling his duties as pontiff.
The Rev. Thomas Walsh of St. Bartholomew’s R.C. Church called the announcement historic and said future popes who feel they can no longer continue in the position because of health concerns no longer have to feel obligated to do so.
“It’s an historic moment,” he said. “I think it will change the way we look at the office of the Pope, perhaps for the better.
Benedict is the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years. He will step down from his position as the head of the Catholic church on Feb. 28. Father Tom said the move will prevent a repeat of what happened during the previous pope's tenure. Pope John Paul II was ill for years, a time during which very little got done at the Vatican.
“I think its wise in that he’s a very intelligent man, a very rational man, and I think he realized that sometimes you’re not able to give it your best anymore,” he said. “During the Christmas Eve mass I could see that he was very frail, and sometimes you reach a point where physically you can’t perform. It’s a daunting ministry.”
On Monday, the Diocese of Metuchen released a statement from Bishop Paul G. Bootkoski, expressing shock but also faith that Benedict was doing what it best for the Catholic church.
"It is not a complete surprise...that this man of great humility and dedication would recognize his inability to carry out fully the duties his office requires and would put first what ultimately is best for the Catholic Church and its members. I ask all to join me in praying for the Holy Father and for the College of Cardinals which will elect his successor," Bootkoski said.
The Diocese of Metuchen will hold a mass in honor of the pope at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi, 32 Elm Ave. in Metuchen.
The mass is open to the public.
Whoever the next pope is, Father Tom said the process should go smoothly, and perhaps the resignation is a blessing in disguise.
"Maybe it’s a better way," he said. "Normally we have nine days of mourning, then this immense and then the conclave begins. I think by the end of the week though we might know something."