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Benedict steps aside: Reaction from New York

February 21, 2013
By Leanna Cappiello
(S+L) New York
When I found out about Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, I was far away from home, on leave from work at the Holy See Mission. I was sitting in a chair in the early morning sunrise, reading a book. I was not connected to the internet and did not expect to be until I returned to the office. Yet, the morning of February 11th, 2013 - I sat, shocked, at the breaking news that reached me. The messenger was a friend who I continued to have a conversation with thereafter. “This hasn’t happened in 600 years,” he said. My first thought was, can he even do that?
By the time I returned to my internship at the Mission, the reaction had softened since the news first broke. The only comments made were that of encouraging silent and diligent prayer for the Holy Father, who said at his general audience, “I have felt, almost physically in these days — which haven’t been easy for me — the strength that prayers, love for the church and prayers for me bring me.”
My thoughts also went back to Pope John Paul II’s papacy. His determination, even on his deathbed, to fulfill papal duties was an astonishing sign of suffering with purpose and determination for his calling. I still remember where I was when John Paul II passed. A stark difference to this Pope’s resignation.
Sitting more on the comparison between JPII and BXVI, I realized how I felt about Benedict’s papacy. Benedict struck a wonderful balance between teaching tradition (for example, administering the Eucharist on the tongue), and expanding in the modern age (writing the YouCat). Bringing us back to our roots, while teaching doctrine in new, dynamic ways. He was just what the world needed at the time.
Above all else, JPII and BXVI are not the same person. They cannot be compared, except perhaps by their title and that they are men. Humans. What is brilliantly appropriate is that Pope Benedict’s work revolved a lot around the humanity of the church. Even his resignation points out his courage and humility as he steps aside for the next candidate. He believes he cannot fulfill duties, so he asks that someone else step in. He is looking out for us.
During mass at Sts Peter and Paul in Hoboken, NJ, the homily was about “change in the Lenten season”. How appropriate. The congregation didn’t miss a beat on thinking of Pope Benedict on that one. The Pope knew what he was doing when he announced his resignation before Lent. And now by Easter, we will be celebrating the arrival a new Pope.
Credit: CNS Photo
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