The news of Pope Benedict XVI resigning came as a shock to much of the world. Local leaders in the Catholic community were among those concerned, but reflected on his time as the head of the Catholic church in a positive light.
"I think he's fulfilled his role very faithfully, and he's tried to speak to issues of concern not only for the Roman Catholic community, but for people throughout the planet," said the Rev. Dennis Mende, pastor of the Holy Apostles Parish in Jamestown. "He's spoken very clearly about our need to give support the poor, our concerns for the environment and the ideas that people might want to consider if they're too materialistic and need to the spiritual dimension. I think he was speaking to issues that were important for everyone."
According to Mende, after the resignation goes into effect on Feb. 28, a conclave will convene. This meeting, which is required to happen within 15 to 20 days of the resignation, will be attended by all of the cardinals throughout the world that are under the age of 80. The cardinals will then elect a new leader for the Catholic church.
"Just how long this election process will take is unpredictable," said Rev. Mende. "I think the news of his resignation came as a surprise to everyone."
During the past several years, Pope Benedict XVI had mentioned the possibility of resigning if there were issues of health impairing his capabilities to fulfill his role, but the news still came as a surprise to most people.
"I think we have to always look forward and always be in dialogue with the concerns in the human community," Mende said. "We need to be aware of the concerns of different religious traditions and the secular world, and we need to have a dialog with all of those issues."
The Rev. Msgr. Joseph M. Dowdell, pastor at Sacred Heart Roman Catholic church in Lakewood, also looked at the recent years as a good time for the Catholic faith and praised Pope Benedict XVI for taking on the responsibilities of the role so late in his life.
"I think we should be very thankful that he took on the great responsibility and challenging task of being Pope so late in his life," said Dowdell. "When you're 77 years old and you've already worked hard for your entire life, most people would just sit back and let another person take the job. I think he did great in the position, though. He visited many countries trying to bring the message of Christ to many people. He stepped down because he knew it would be foolish to try to carry on with this level of responsibility when he's sick."
When asked if he had any thoughts as to who might be elected to the position, Dowdell looked to his faith to provide the church with someone capable of taking over the role of Pope.
"I think it's good for all Catholics to pray to the Holy Spirit that the correct choice is made for both the good of the church and the good of the world," he said.