Nashville Bishop reacts to Pope's resignation - WSMV News 4

Nashville Bishop reacts to Pope's resignation

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An announcement Monday that Pope Benedict XVI will resign at the end of the month took many Roman Catholics in Middle Tennessee by surprise.

Benedict, who took over in 2005 following the death of Pope John Paul II, becomes the first pope in six centuries to step aside. At the time, Benedict was the oldest pope who had been named in several hundred years.

Now, at age 85, he cites a lack of strength for the job as the reason for his resignation.

There are more than 60,000 Catholics living in Middle Tennessee, and the priest at the Cathedral of Incarnation on West End in Nashville told parishioners celebrating Mass on Monday this won't be a crisis, but rather a transition in the church.

"My reaction was shock, of course. And I love him, so it's a sad day, but also a day of tremendous respect," said parishioner Mary Pat Payne.

Pope Benedict appointed Bishop David Choby in 2005, and Choby said the two have met four times over the past several years.

"I think that history will remember him as a very capable, a very competent leader for the church," Choby said.

After retiring, the pope will commit himself to prayer and writing.

In March, the church's cardinals will gather in Rome for conclave to select - in secrecy - the church's new leader.

"I hope that it is someone who will have that sense of love for humanity, someone who will be very clear and very understanding with regard to the faith that has been received by the church," Choby said.

Parishioners in Nashville largely seem to agree with those sentiments, as the Catholic Church focuses not only on a new leader but also on a new start.

"For me, I'm curious to see the process as they name a replacement, and I think it'll help me better understand the church," said parishioner Jim Barnes.

The pope will step down Feb. 28, and the conclave of cardinals will convene soon after. Church leaders seem to suggest they could select a new pope in time for Easter late next month.

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