Local Catholics react to Pope's sudden resignation

10:28 PM, Feb 11, 2013   |    comments
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ST. PAUL, Minn. - From the halls of St. Thomas University to the steps of the Basilica in Minneapolis, Catholics are reacting to the sudden resignation of Pope Benedict.

"I think it seems perfectly reasonable given his age," says parishioner Nora Purmort.

"Well, it certainly caught me off guard, but it is not totally unexpected," says Don Briel, the director of the Center for Catholic Studies at St. Thomas.

"We should expect Pope's to resign in the modern world because they tend to live longer and medical care can keep them alive much longer," says Briel. "Whether they really have the energy and stamina for the office is far from clear."

Briel believes the 85-year-old will be remembered as a scholar pope, a traditionalist and an understated man.

Pope Benedict has led the church through a painful time with the child sex abuse scandal peaking under his watch.

As speculation swirls over a new Pope, perhaps a younger Pope, Briel cautions Catholics not to expect drastic change.

"The church is the oldest institution in the history of the world, over 2,000 years old," says Briel. "It doesn't move in new directions quickly and it tends not to be under the influence of a particular Pope to do that."

On the steps of the Minneapolis Basilica, Catholic parishioner Mota Boult says who the new pope is isn't as important as what he stands for.

"He could come from Mars as long as he is a good person."

Archbishop John Nienstedt says like Catholics around the world, he was surprised to learn the 85-year-old pope plans to resign for health reasons at the end of the month.

Nienstedt says in a statement Monday he is also saddened by the thought of losing Benedict's "strong leadership for the church."

Nienstedt was among bishops who met with Benedict last March. The archbishop says the pope's pastoral reflections about each of the bishops' dioceses - and the Twin Cities archdiocese in particular - "were insightful as well as inspirational."

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