Houston Reaction To The Pope’s Surprising Announcement

Pope Benedict's resignation came as a shock to Catholics here and around the world. It's the first time a pope has stepped down in nearly 600 years.

The 85-year-old Pontiff dropped the bombshell of his resignation during a meeting with cardinals at the Vatican. It surprised even members of his inner circle.

Reaction was no different from people attending Mass at Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral downtown.

Female: “I’m actually devastated that he’s resigning. But I’m excited for the next pontiff to be nominated, and I’m praying for Pope Benedict for his health, so.”

Male: “I was surprised, but I think he was doing a good job — just didn’t see it coming.”

Female: “I know there’s a tradition that’s changed today, but I admire him for looking forward to the future of our church, and bringing us all together.”

Benedict becomes the first pope to resign since Gregory XII, in 1415. That resignation was to end a civil war within the church, in which more than one man claimed to be pope.

Friar Leon Strieder teaches theology at the University of St Thomas.

“He’s a wise man and I figure he’s thought about this, he just hasn’t yet told us what he’s going to do.”

Hernandez: “It’s not like he just woke up to say, ‘I think I’m going to step down?'”

Fr Strieder: “He’s obviously been considering it, because he’s a very analytical man and I would suspect that this has been part of his thought at least the last month, if not earlier.”

The move allows the Vatican to hold a conclave — special gathering of Cardinals — to elect a new pope before Easter, since the traditional nine days of mourning that would follow the death of a pope doesn’t have to be observed.

Frances Panchok is a professor of Church History at UST, and the school of theology at St. Mary’s Seminary. She says the task of the new pope will be to address Benedict’s existence after resignation.

“We used to say that ‘there’s nothing deader than a dead pope’, and what they mean by that of course, is the pope’s ring is crushed, the pope’s symbols are also shattered across the world, because you are now in an era of a new pope, new images, a new ring, new authority.”

The Vatican says Benedict won’t be involved in the naming of his successor, but his influence will be felt. He appointed 67 of the 118 cardinals, including Daniel DiNardo of the Houston-Galveston Archdiocese downtown, who will help make the decision.