Denver Archbishop Aquila urges prayer, gratitude in wake of pope’s resignation
By Karna Swanson
Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver is calling all Catholics of northern Colorado to give thanks for the eight years of service Benedict XVI gave to the Church as pope, and to turn to prayer as the Church begins the process of selecting a new pontiff.
The archbishop released a statement the morning of Feb. 11 as news broke around the world that Benedict XVI, 85, will resign Feb. 28 from the office of the papacy. The Holy Father cited concerns of advancing age and declining strength, saying that for these reasons, he is unable to “adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”
“I ask all Christians, and all people of good will,” Archbishop Aquila wrote, “to join me in lifting their hearts in gratitude to the Father for the ministry of Pope Benedict XVI in his service to Jesus Christ, the Church and all humanity.”
The archbishop praised the Holy Father as “a man of deep faith with an extraordinary love for Jesus Christ and the Church. He is a man of keen intelligence, great strength, compassion and humility, who has faithfully served the Church throughout his life in diverse ways, always obedient to Christ and seeking the will of the Father.
“The witness of his life and work has borne incredible fruit and will continue to do so in his retirement. His impact on the Church will be felt for generations to come.”
J.D. Flynn, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Denver, reflected with the Denver Catholic Register on the pope’s decision to step down as pontiff, which hasn’t happened in the Church in almost 600 years.
“The Holy Father’s resignation models an openness to the unexpected surprises of God’s call in our life, and the triumph of love over worldly success and power,” he said. “The Holy Father has modeled the obedience which is at the heart of holiness—and he calls us to that holiness as well.”
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, also commented on the news that surprised even some of Benedict XVI’s closest collaborators.
“The Holy Father brought the tender heart of a pastor, the incisive mind of a scholar and the confidence of a soul united with his God in all he did,” the cardinal stated. “His resignation is but another sign of his great care for the Church.”
Recalling Pope Benedict’s visit to the United States in 2008, Cardinal Dolan reflected on his work as a pastor, statesman and spiritual leader.
“He spoke for the world’s poor when he visited them and wrote of equality among nations in his peace messages and encyclicals,” the cardinal added. “He pleaded for a more equitable share of world resources and for a respect for God’s creation in nature.”
He also noted that despite the pontiff’s advanced age when he was elected in 2005, “he set out to meet his people—and they were of all faiths—all over the world.”
He referenced Pope Benedict’s particular care for those facing persecution, poverty and pain, noting the pope’s visits to the Middle East, and Africa as well as the pope’s private meetings with victims of clerical abuse.
In addition, he recalled the Holy Father’s meetings with young people at World Youth Day gatherings in Australia, Germany and Spain.
Cardinal Dolan said that Pope Benedict’s words, actions and writings “moved and changed” people, urging them “to know and have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.”
Calling the resignation “an important moment in our lives as citizens of the world,” he concluded by reiterating his gratitude and calling for hope-filled prayers “that the College of Cardinals under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit choose a worthy successor to meet the challenges present in today’s world.”
Adelaide Darling of the Catholic News Agency contributed to this story.