Many South Mississippi Catholics expressed shock Monday over the sudden announcement by Pope Benedict XVI. The 85-year old pontiff says he will resign at the end of February, becoming the first pope to step down in 600-years. WLOX News has reaction from a man who has met the pope and a woman whose life has been changed by him.
It was not the kind of news Susan Taylor expected to hear, especially so close to the holy Lenten season. Pope Benedict, the leader of the Catholic Church, is stepping down in three weeks.
"I was very shocked actually. I didn't have any idea to know that this was coming," said Taylor.
Taylor remembers the message Pope Benedict delivered when was elected back in 2005. Those words influenced her life and her leadership as president of St. Vincent de Paul at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Biloxi.
"He said that each of us is loved, each of us is willed, and each of us is necessary. I wrote it down. It was so beautiful to me, and particularly of what we do here at St. Vincent de Paul. We minister to the poor," said Taylor.
Unlike most Catholics, Monsignor Dominick Fullam was not as surprised by the pope's decision to resign for age and health reasons.
"I've seen where in the past where he's alluded to the possibility of a pope resigning, and I've seen blogs sometimes asking the question where he might be inclined to do that," said Fr. Fullam. "I always thought he would be the kind of person who would do that if he felt the time was right, and he would be the kind of person who would do what's best for the church."
Monsignor Fullam had a rare opportunity to meet Pope Benedict when he accompanied Bishop Roger Morin during a visit to the Vatican a year ago.
"It was a great experience, nervous about what's coming. I totally forgot everything that I intended to do upon meeting the pope and saying. I basically said,"Nice to meet you Holy Father," Fr. Fullam recalled. "He said, 'Nice to meet you too.'"
Father Fullam described the pope as a saintly, charismatic leader who worked to unite all Christians.
"Christianity has many different denominations and divisions sadly, and he's done a lot to try to bring us together," said Fr. Fullam "He is a person to emulate as far as being a good shepherd, being someone in this case, a very scholarly person, very prayerful and humble man."
"He expresses his love so beautifully for everyone. The encyclicals he's written, the books he's written, particularly about Jesus, I think he just struck a chord with many Catholics," said Taylor. "God has a plan and he used Pope Benedict at the time and place that he needed him, and he will not leave our beautiful church without a leader."
In a statement issued Monday, Bishop Roger Morin said the Pope's decision caught him off guard. He stated, "In these past eight years, Pope Benedict XVI has shown himself to be an outstanding international leader, a man of peace and justice. The Holy Father has a shepherd's heart and in his commitment to do what is best for the Church has concluded that this course is best. I am saddened by the news."
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