HARRISON, N.Y. – Pope Benedict XVI retired Thursday at 2 p.m. – 8 p.m. in Rome – becoming the first pope to do so in nearly 600 years.
He had announced his retirement, due to his “advanced age,” on Feb. 11. Benedict is 85.
“It surprised everybody, but it was understandable, given what he was dealing with physically and such,” said Monsignor Francis McAree, pastor of St. Gregory the Great Church in Harrison.
The German-born Joseph Ratzinger is the first pope since Gregory XII in 1415 to resign. He took over as leader of the Roman Catholic Church in 2005 after Pope John Paul II’s death.
Benedict will now be referred to as pope emeritus and will live in a cloistered area of the Vatican. A conclave of bishops from around the world is to meet on March 11 to start choosing the 266th pope.
McAree said said he does not think the pope emeritus will get in the new pope’s way.
“I don’t think he’ll in any way interfere or in any way offer any opinions unless he’s directly asked,” McAree said.
When it comes to the next leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, McAree said the new pope must have the “same type of fidelity that popes always exhibit.”
The Rev. Christopher Monturo, pastor of St. Anthony Church of Padua in West Harrison, echoed Cardinal Timothy Dolan's sentiments on the future pope.
"I think that Cardinal Dolan put it very well when he said the qualities he'd be looking for would be a person who most resembles Jesus," said St. Anthony of Padua Church Pastor Christopher Monturo. "That encapsulates the totality of the personal qualities that you'd be looking for of selflessness, charity, love, a deep inner peace, and holiness and personal sanctity."
Monturo is looking forward to finding out who the conclave will decide is the next pope.
"I think that the church is in good hands," he said. "I think it's an exciting time in which we're living right now. Whoever the next pope will be certainly will have many challenges to confront, but I think will also do a very fine job as all the Holy Fathers we can remember certainly have done in leading the church."
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