Area Catholics praise tenure, say he was ‘right pope’ for time
Posted: February 12, 2013
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — Local Catholics were caught off-guard by the resignation announcement of Pope Benedict XVI Monday.
Benedict, the 85-year-old German-born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, succeeded Pope John Paul II following his death and began his papacy on April 19, 2005.
Benedict, who will serve through the end of this month, cited his health and age as reasons for his resignation. He is the first pope to resign since 1415.
“It was a real bombshell to me; [the announcement] sort of came out of nowhere,” said the Rev. Stanley Krempa, pastor at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church on Keating Driver. “I had a 7 [a.m.] Mass and someone came in and said they’d heard about the resignation on [National Public Radio].”
Bruce Downing, a local Catholic parishioner, said he was “shocked and surprised” when he heard the news since it is rare for a pope to resign.
While Catholics may have been surprised by Benedict’s decision, many think he did well in his position.
“I thought he was a good pope,” Krempa said. “He had a lot of different issues to deal with and did a good job in the very contentious environment in which we live.
“He was probably the right pope for that moment in history, and certainly the right pope to follow John Paul II.”
John Paul II served from Oct. 16, 1978, until his death on April 2, 2005. His tenure as pope was the second-longest in church history.
William Heuhn, a local Catholic parishioner, said he thought Benedict was able to effectively help the church meet the challenges it faces in an increasingly secular world.
Peter Buchbauer, a Winchester lawyer and Catholic, said the church “got what most people expected” from Benedict’s term as pope.
“He was not an unknown quantity when elected; he was clearly a transitional pope,” Buchbauer said. “No one expects a person of his age to serve like John Paul II did. He was clearly a person to maintain some stability for the church, which he did. [However], I think some of his writings surprised some people — the depth of the writing and its compassion.”
Winchester resident Suzanne Fleming thinks Benedict was a strong leader for the church.
“He maintained our chief tenets; that’s what a spiritual leader is supposed to do, not bow to secular wishes,” she said.
Downing said that while he is more liberal than Benedict, he thought the pope was a successful leader. “I think times are changing. I think it’s time for women priests in our church. There’s a shortage of priests now and women priests could address that. We have a lot of fine nuns. I think he was a good man and a good pope.”
Benedict was a staunch opponent of ordaining female priests.
Rebecca McTavish, the principal of Sacred Heart Academy, a Catholic school in Winchester, said the pope’s resignation was a topic of discussion in her fourth-grade religious studies class on Monday.
“We talked about how it was a big decision for him to make and that it’s unusual because it’s been a while since a pope resigned,” she said. “We will continue to keep him in our prayers.”
Krempa said the next pope must uphold the church’s ideals, including the protection of religious freedom and the sanctity of human life.
He added that the future pope should continue efforts to build bridges between the varied interests represented in the church. “It’s hard to run an organization that encompasses [most of the world] and be sensitive the needs of each [region].
“I think he was a good pope and his decision [to resign] is very courageous,” Krempa said. “I hope he’s at peace with the decision.”
— Contact Matt Armstrong firstname.lastname@example.org