Area Catholics joined those from around the world who were shocked Monday when Pope Benedict XVI announced that he would become the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years.
Joseph Ratzinger's last day as Pope will be Feb. 28. He was chosen in 2005 to succeed the late Pope John Paul II.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who serves the United States and will be among the College of Cardinals to elect a new pope said he was surprised along with the rest of the world. He added in a statement that "His resignation is but another sign of his great care for the Church."
Bishop Frank J. Dewane of the Diocese of Venice, which includes includes Manatee and Sarasota counties, released a statement this morning about his surprise and his gratitude for the Pope's service.
It is no coincidence that the Holy Father concluded his statement assuring the Church that he will devote his remaining years to “serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.” His writings and teachings have called Catholics to a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and to help those in need. Particularly during this time, I ask all Catholics in the Diocese of Venice in Florida to join me in prayer for Pope Benedict XVI and for the College of Cardinals as they prepare to convene, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to elect the next Successor of St. Peter.
Bishop Robert N. Lynch, of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, also released a statement following the Pope's announcement this morning.
Lynch said the Pope's resignation "was both stunning to many and surprising to some. I have had the unique privilege in my own priestly life to come to know Josef Ratzinger well and when he said shortly after his election as our Pope that he would resign if his health ever would not permit him to fulfill his responsibilities as he saw fit, I believed him."
Lynch's statement continues:
"I repeat what I often said at the time of his election – the Church was given a leader with an incredible intellect, a pastor’s heart, and a very patient listener. I sensed when we briefly reminisced about our work together last May (2012) that I was saying good-by. I am happy for him that he is going to spend the rest of his days on earth at peace in prayer and study. And I shall always thank him for his love of the Church."
In a statement released by the Pope, he said, "I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry."
"I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church.
After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.
I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.
For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.
Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff.
With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer."
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