Roman Catholics in Hamden and around the world were surprised to learn today that Pope Benedict XVI will step down effective Feb. 28.
The Pope made the decision citing poor health. When he was elected in April of 2005 at age 78, he was the oldest person to be elected Pope and at the time had plans to retire to his home country of Germany.
He is the first Pope to resign in 600 years. The last was Gregory XII in 1415, and in that case it wasn't poor health but civil unrest within the Church that led to the resignation.
For many in Hamden, the resignation was welcome. On the Hamden Patch Facebook page, several cited the Pope's alleged involvement in the sex abuse scandal where he allegedly failed to act in cases where priests were accused of molesting children.
"He seems quite arrogant," said Brooke Stegner. "Wish we could get a pope who is more accepting of everyone."
"We need someone who is open-minded..less rigid," said Michelle DaPonte Saslow. "I have hope!"
"[I am] impressed that he was humble enough to step down because he felt he couldn't do what was needed for his position," said Denise Griffo Petry.
But he also is credited for putting in place stricter regulations for dealing with priests accused of sex crimes after he became Pope.
Local church leaders praised the pontiff for his years of service.
"We voice our sentiments of gratitude, appreciation, respect, esteem and admiration for Pope Benedict XVI and his significant leadership as Pope since April 19, 2005," said Hartford Archbishop Henry J. Mansell. "We have all been amazed at the very demanding schedule that he has kept over these years, from early morning to late at night.
"In his trips around the world, we were particularly impressed by his countless celebrations of Masses and other ceremonies; we heard the major speeches his gave; and we participated in the meetings he held with world leaders and people of every neighborhood," he said. "This is a time that calls for the unification of all Catholics from around the world to pray for Pope Benedict XVI as he prepares for his resignation at the end of the month, and to ask our loving God to guide those electing a new Pope with strength, love and wisdom in their deliberations."
Pope Benedict will step down as of 8 p.m. Feb. 28. Immediately after that, the College of Cardinals will gather in Rome to select a successor. It takes at least two-thirds plus one of the 118 voting cardinals to elect a new Pope.
There has been talk that Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York could be in the running to become the next Pope, though it's thought that it's unlikely that the College of Cardinals will select a Pope from the United States and instead will stick with a candidate from smaller European country rather than a superpower like the U.S.