Lexington's Catholics respond to pope's resignation

ctruman@herald-leader.comFebruary 11, 2013 

The announcement of Pope Benedict XVI's resignation had Lexington's Catholics thinking about the next pope.

Lexington Bishop Ronald Gainer said Monday the pattern of papal succession has shown that an older pope — Pope Benedict was 78 when chosen in 2005 — is often succeeded by a younger one.

Karol Józef Wojtyła, later Pope John Paul II, was 57 when he became pope in 1978.

"The papacy demands a vigorous mind and physical strength," Gainer said.

Pope Benedict's resignation is "an act of humility and courage to admit that his strength is diminished," Gainer said.

Ginny Ramsey, head of Lexington's Catholic Action Center, said the resignation was appropriate "because he said if he felt he couldn't do what he felt he should do, he would resign. ... It's a sea change from the way it usually works, but I think that shows his awareness and humility."

Concerning the speculation about who the next pope will be, Ramsey said the College of Cardinals might make an unusual pick: "I wouldn't be surprised if it's an African or a Hispanic. They're the fastest growing areas of the Catholic Church."

Janice Sevre-Duszynska, who in 2008 became the first Kentucky woman ordained as a priest, sent out a news release calling for "pink smoke" over the Vatican — the naming of the first female pope.

"I would nominate our woman bishop Bridget Mary Meehan," she said. "She's already a woman priest and a bishop. She would bring to the forefront the fact that we already have women priests on the ground. ... I believe we'd have a more just and compassionate church."

Sevre-Duszynska was ordained by the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. The Roman Catholic Church does not ordain women.

Joseph Kurtz, vice president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and archbishop of Louisville, said in a statement that he was grateful to the pope "for the wonderful spiritual leadership that he has provided for the Catholic Church throughout the world over these eight years."

"I have great love and esteem for our Holy Father Benedict and am touched by his humble admission of the strength necessary to carry on this ministry of Christ," Kurtz said in the statement.

The Rev. Mark Dreves, rector of Cathedral of Christ the King, said, "It's an impressive thing the pope has done. It's a selfless and noble act."

Dreves said he was confident the next pope would meet the needs of Catholics worldwide.

"It's not up to me," he said. "It's what the Holy Spirit decides the church needs. I've been pleased with John Paul II and Pope Benedict. They both brought different things to the church."

The Rev. Marian McClure Taylor, director of the Kentucky Council of Churches, said the pope's decision was understandable, given his physical decline.

"Providing leadership for more than 1 billion Catholics worldwide is enormously demanding," Taylor said in a statement. "We respect Pope Benedict's discernment that the leadership should now pass to someone else. We can all pray for him during this transition, and for his successor."

As for who that successor will be, the speculation begins.

"There are certainly strong candidates from Europe, such as the Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Schoenborn, who is a member of the Dominican order," said David G. Hunter, the Cottrill-Rolfes chair of Catholic studies in the department of modern and classical languages at the University of Kentucky.

"But I would not be surprised to see the cardinals go for someone who is younger and from one of the areas where the church is growing more quickly, that is, from Africa, Asia or elsewhere in the developing world," Hunter added.

Cheryl Truman: (859) 231-3202. Twitter: @CherylTruman.

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