The sudden announcement of Pope Benedict XVI’s impending resignation caught many off guard, but none more so than those intimately connected with the Church.

Most Honorable Douglas Crosby, Bishop of Hamilton, issued a brief statement to the media following the announcement Monday morning that Pope Benedict XVI would be leaving the Papal office as of February 28.

“The historic news of the resignation of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, due to weakening health was unexpected,” he said. “The leadership that he has given to the Church throughout his life has been remarkable. As a Priest, Professor, Bishop and Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he has served the Church generously and wisely. His teaching and example leave a lasting legacy for the Church and for the world.”

The Very Reverend Monsignor Murray Kroetsch serves as one of the Vicars General for the Hamilton Diocese, and though he echoes Bishop Crosby’s surprise, he says that the reports about Pope Benedict’s health should have indicated that such an announcement was coming.

“In one sense it shouldn’t have been a great surprise,” he said. “But the timing of it certainly was a surprise.”

After February 28th, the College of Cardinals will have to gather for Papal conclave in the Vatican to elect a new successor, just as if the Pope had died. But Monsignor Kroetsch says there will be a different feeling surrounding the election- a Pope hasn’t resigned since Gregory XII in 1415.

“Nobody living today has had this experience,” he said. “Obviously because he did not die in office there won’t be the usual days of mourning before the conclave could take place, but I imagine the conclave will take place a week or two after the official date of resignation.”

Koetsch says that the ramifications for churches like the Hamilton Diocese are minimal.

“The impact it will have on most people will be simply prayer,” he said. “In the period between his resignation and the election of the new pope, we as Catholics will be praying that the Holy Spirit guides the cardinals to elect a new pastor for us.”

In the discussions surrounding who will be the next Pope, one name is standing out from all the rest, and it’s a Canadian one: Marc Ouellet, the Canadian Cardinal of the Catholic Church. If elected, he would be the first modern Pope to come from outside of Europe.  Koetsch says that though there would be some pride in that, not much else would change.

“The Pope is the Bishop of Rome and the Pastor of the Universal Church, so even if there was a Pope elected from our own country, we would have the same relationship with him as we have with Pope Benedict XVI.”

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