Pope’s decision shows concern for good of the Church, say Archbishop Nienstedt, Bishop Piché

| February 14, 2013 | 0 Comments
Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI walks with a cane as he arrives to meet with seminarians in Rome Feb. 8. The pope announced Feb. 11 that he will resign at the end of the month. CNS photo / Tony Gentile, Reuters

Archbishop John Nienstedt said he was surprised like everyone else around the world when he heard the news about Pope Benedict’s resignation for health reasons.

The archbishop was on his way Feb. 11 to a 6 a.m. holy hour during a visit to St. John Vianney College Seminary when someone asked him if he had heard the news.

“My first reaction was that it was probably just a rumor,” Archbishop Nienstedt said.

Later, when it was confirmed, the archbishop said he read Pope Benedict’s statement about the resignation and felt the Holy Father explained his situation well.

“He said to be an effective bishop of Rome and leader of the universal Church, one has to have a good mind and a good body,” Archbishop Nienstedt noted. “It’s a lot of stress and a lot of moving around. He’s been very visible in his travels. He’s kept up a schedule not unlike that of John Paul II. That all takes a toll.”

In addition to surprise, the news also comes with sadness.

“I think he’s been a great pope for us,” the archbishop said. “He’s been a great teacher, a wonderful writer, a great thinker, a learned man. He’s been a real gift to the Church.”

For the good of the Church

Bishop Lee Piché said he was surprised, “even stunned” at the news. But he said he has great respect for the pope, who has proven to be a wise and innovative thinker.

“From my perspective, the most important aspect of Pope Benedict’s announcement is his revelation that he took this step as a matter of conscience, but that the decision is not about him, but about the needs of the Church,” Bishop Piché said.

“It is for the sake of ensuring that the communion of Christ’s disciples in our time have the vigorous and agile kind of leadership we need not only to survive, but to thrive and grow,” the bishop added. “Our Church, because it is a worldwide communion, is vast, and the challenges are immense and complex. The Holy Father recognizes that he has reached the point in his life when the limitations of age and strength make it impossible for him to fulfill the demands of the office for the good of the Church.”

Bishop Piché said he thinks the pope is telling all the faithful that we must re-examine our thinking and attitudes about the papal office.

“For one thing, it forces us to make more clear our understanding of the distinction between the person and the office, between the individual, Joseph Ratzinger, and the role that he has filled as the Vicar of Christ,” the bishop said. “In the end, the Church will grow in her understanding and appreciation of this essential office of unity and universal governance which can appear to many to be an anachronism and a monolithic thing. Pope Benedict, in this one amazing stroke, has made the papacy one of the most relevant topics of our age.”

Teacher at heart

Archbishop Nienstedt said his personal encounters with Pope Benedict have always been relatively short, but he has found much to admire during the pope’s service the last eight years.

The pope is a theologian and former teacher, Archbishop Nienstedt noted, and that background showed through during visits, such as the “ad limina” visit he and Bishop Piché made to Rome last March to report on the state of the archdiocese.

“Shortly after his elevation to the papacy, people used the word ‘serene’ to describe him,” Archbishop Nienstedt said. “I think that really captures it. There’s a sense of peace and calm. He listens attentively to everything that’s said — like a good teacher would. He likes to have a colloquium of sorts with the bishops instead of meeting one on one. I think he enjoys that give and take that you have in a seminar.”

He also said Pope Benedict is a humble man — a fact proven by his latest decision.

“It’s not easy to give up authority and power and influence in the Church,” the archbishop said. “But he’s just seen that it’s the right thing to do. I think that takes a man who has great introspection and is a man of great reflection and humility.”

Archbishop Nienstedt said the pope’s decision comes at a perfect time just as Lent begins. Prayer and fasting are needed, he said, so that “the Holy Spirit’s will might be done, that we’ll have a pontiff that will be equal to his great successors that we’ve had.”

“In my lifetime, we’ve had strong, faithful pontiffs,” he added. “I have every reason to believe the College of Cardinals will elect another.”

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Category: Pope Benedict Bids Farewell