Denver reacts to pope’s news with sadness, prayer
By Nissa LaPoint
Stephen Driscoll/Catholic News Agency
The Feb. 11 announcement of the pope’s resignation sent shock waves across the world last week and news of the 85-year-old pontiff’s concerns over his advancing age touched the homes of Catholics throughout the Denver Archdiocese.
Many expressed surprise. Others felt sadness. Some thought the news was a farce.
Still others wondered who would take his place. When the dust settled on Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to resign from the office of the papacy Feb. 28—a decision that hasn’t happened in the
Catholic Church for almost 600 years—local religious and lay faithful in the state shared their reaction to the news and the Holy Father’s influence on their lives.
“I was very shocked,” said Father Jeffrey Wilborn, pastor of Our Lady of the Plains Parish in Byers. “I was sad and maybe a little emotional, because I did have a connection with him through ordination.”
Father Wilborn was in his fourth year of seminarian studies in 1999 at the North American College in Rome when his classmates elected
him to head the committee on diaconate ordination.
He inquired about whether former Denver Archbishop J. Francis Stafford would preside over the ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica and was told someone had already agreed to ordain them deacons: Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
“We were all happy,” Father Wilborn said.
The then-cardinal spent an hour with the seminarians who asked him questions before their ordination. “More than anything, we were just struck with his humility and incredible brilliance,”he said.
When ordination day arrived, the seminarians were nervous wrecks, he recalled. But a piece of the cardinal’s humanity put them back at ease. When he processed in, Cardinal Ratzinger made the mistake of sitting in the deacon’s chair instead of the presider’s seat.
“That little tiny slip us got us all laughing and took away all our nervousness,” Father Wilborn recalled. The same gentleness and
humility he remembers in the cardinal was present in his decision to step down from the papacy, he said.
“Knowing immediately that he’s a man of deep prayer, I know that this (decision) would have come out of the depths of his prayer,” he said. “And I know it’s probably something he wrestled with for quite some time before making this decision. If he’s doing it I know it’s best for the Church and best for him as well.”
Rose Mary McLeod, a responsible for the Neocatechumenal Way, recalls attending an audience with Pope Benedict three years ago in Rome. Members of the Vatican-approved,post-baptismal catechumenate all attended to meet with the pope in St. Peter’s
“It was very positive,” McLeod recalled. “He seemed to really have some warm feelings for our group. We were very happy to be there with him.”
Just as was Pope John Paul II, she said Pope Benedict XVI was
supportive of The Way and welcomed them to Rome. He also
sent families and children of The Way out on mission to be a Christian presence in de-Christianized areas of the world.
“He said he was happy to have us there,” she said.
Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila released a statement on the day of the pontiff’s resignation, asking for prayer and gratitude for Pope Benedict’s ministry. The archbishop called the Holy Father “a man of deep faith with an extraordinary love for Jesus Christ and the Church.”
“At 85, the Holy Father has heard the Lord call him to resign from his office due to his physical weakness and to prepare for a new shepherd to come forward in leadership to the Church,” the Archbishop said. “Let us join the Holy Father in commending the future of the Church to the Father’s care, to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and to the intercession of our Blessed Mother. Let us praise the Lord for his servant of servants, Pope Benedict XVI.”d 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.”
Nissa LaPoint: 303-715-3138; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.twitter.com/DCRegisterNissa.