The U.S. bishops voiced sorrow over the news of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, as well as appreciation for his eight years of leadership and service to the Church.
“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,” said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “His resignation is but another sign of his great care for the Church.”
Cardinal Dolan’s Feb. 11 statement came hours after Pope Benedict announced his decision to resign from his papal duties, effective Feb. 28.
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.”
Cardinal Dolan reflected on the Pope Benedict’s service to the Church, commending the Holy Father for his work to proclaim the Gospel in all that he did.
“Pope Benedict often cited the significance of eternal truths and he warned of a dictatorship of relativism,” he said. “Some values, such as human life, stand out above all others, he taught again and again. It is a message for eternity.”
“He unified Catholics and reached out to schismatic groups in hopes of drawing them back to the church,” the cardinal continued. “More unites us than divides us, he said by word and deed. That message is for eternity.”
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.”