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Pope Benedict XVI waves to the crowd at the end of a papal Mass in Regensburg, southern Germany, on Sept. 12, 2006. Roman Catholics around the world expressed disbelief and grief Monday at the first papal resignation in six centuries. (AP)
Local church leaders react to pope’s decision
Posted on Feb. 11, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.

ELKHART — Local church leaders said they were surprised by the sudden announcement of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, but they also said they will cherish the memories Joseph Ratzinger created as pope.

The Rev. Thomas Jones of Sacred Heart Parish at Notre Dame said though surprised by the announcement, he was in part gladdened by the “courageous step” the pope took.

“He certainly has given his whole heart and soul to the ministry his whole life,” Jones said. “He been a great shepherd of the church. He’s traveled all over the world, he’s tried to bring the message of Christ to the young and to the old and everyone in between.”

Jones said that through reading the pope’s homilies and books, he would describe the pope as a “profound theologian and a great scripture scholar.

“He seems to be always smiling and friendly, and he’s been a good example for all of us,” he said. “He tried to get a smile out and share the joy with others.”

Looking into the conclave that will be held in March, Jones said he hopes the new pope will be someone who will work hard for peace and unity.

“Who will work to bring the three great, three monotheistic religions together. Who will also try to bring a greater unity within the Christian churches,” he said. “Someone who can present to the world that we have to take care of those who are the most vulnerable in society.”

The bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Kevin C. Rhoades, issued a statement Monday, Feb. 11, in reaction to the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, saying that though he is saddened by the news, he is “filled with gratitude for the faithful and fruitful ministry” of the pope.

Pope Benedict XVI announced that he will resign from his duties by the end of February, citing his age and “diminished strength.”

“The church and the world have been greatly blessed by the extraordinary ministry and beautiful teachings of Pope Benedict these past nearly eight years,” Rhoades said in a statement. “In his providential care, the Lord blessed us with a great shepherd.”

He invited the Catholic community to pray for the pope and College of Cardinals as they prepare to meet in a conclave to select a successor.

Jones said he has faith the College of Cardinals will find a successor who can provide the leadership others have done in the past.

“I think it’s going to be an exciting time for the church,” he said.