CHARLESTON—Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone thought he was going to have a quiet Monday — until he heard the shocking announcement that Pope Benedict XVI had resigned.
It is an occurrence that is practically unheard of, with the last resignation coming more than 600 years ago with Pope Gregory XII in 1415.
Bishop Guglielmone said he was surprised, along with the rest of the world, but sees the resignation as a sign of Pope Benedict’s love for the Church.
“Pope Benedict XVI spent his papacy sharing his love of God and love of Church with the Catholic faithful around the world,” the bishop said. “His resignation today is an outward sign of that love.”
He noted that the pope wrote that if he ever reached a point where he could no longer fulfill the duties of his office, he would resign.
“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,” the pope told a group of cardinals, who thought they were gathered for an ordinary public consistory.
Once Pope Benedict steps down at the end of the month, a conclave will convene to elect his successor.
Bishop Guglielmone said he would not speculate who the next pope might be, pointing out that no one expected either Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict, but that is who the Holy Spirit called forth.
Although the news was surprising, the bishop said it was not a complete shock, based on the pope’s comments and the present-day demands of the papal office, which call for a dynamic role of daily appearances and constant travel.
In years past, people didn’t live to be 80-plus years old, the bishop said, adding that in the future, Pope Benedict’s approach to resignation may not be so unique.
Church officials said they expect the appointment of a new pope to occur in time to lead the full schedule of Holy Week and Easter liturgies.
In the meantime, the decision will have no impact on church business in the diocese.
“We’ll be praying in gratitude for (Pope) Benedict,” Bishop Guglielmone said.