Numerous American bishops voiced their gratitude to Pope Benedict for his nearly 8 years of service as Bishop of Rome, noting the pontiff's constant desire for the good of the Church.
“Pope Benedict XVI has, in all circumstances, placed the will of God for the good of the Church before every other consideration....he has now shown great courage in deciding, after prayer and soul-searching, to resign his office at the end of this month,” Cardinal Francis George of Chicago wrote.
“He has taught with clarity and charity what God has revealed to the world in Christ; he has handed on the apostolic faith; he has loved all of God’s people with all his heart.”
At 12:30 p.m. in Rome on Feb. 11, Pope Benedict XVI announced to a gathering of cardinals that he no longer has the strength to carry out the office of the Papacy and will resign on Feb. 28. He is 85 years of age.
“After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry,” the Pope declared.
Cardinal George, who will vote in the conclave to elect the Pope's successor continued, saying that “with the gratitude of sons and daughters in our hearts, we ask the Lord to bless him and give him strength, as we begin to pray now for the one who will succeed him as Bishop of Rome, Successor of Peter and Vicar of Christ.”
Cardinal Dolan of New York, who was appointed to the College of Cardinals by Pope Benedict, similarly accepted the announcement.
“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. His resignation is but another sign of his great care for the Church. We are sad that he will be resigning but grateful for his eight years of selfless leadership as successor of St. Peter.”
Cardinal Dolan recounted the worldwide trips made by the Pope, who was elected to the See of Rome at age 78.
Pope Benedict has taught us eternal truths, Cardinal Dolan said, such as the value of human life and the strength of what unites Catholics in the Church.
Cardinal Dolan went on to cite the Pope's concern for “schismatic groups” as well as the poor of the world.
“In all he said and did he urged people everywhere to know and have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.”
Archbishop José Gomez, head of the Los Angeles archdiocese, said Pope Benedict has “truly been a Holy Father to the family of God.”
“His decision to resign is a beautiful, Christ-like act of humility and love for the Church. This is the act of a saint, who thinks not about himself but only about the will of God and the good of God’s people.”
Archbishop Gomez noted his personal affection for and gratitude to Pope Benedict, saying he tries “to learn every day from his words and example.” He exhorted everyone to entrust him to “our Blessed Mother Mary” and to “pray that he will continue to have joy and peace and many more years for prayer and reflection.”
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia noted the Pope's “intelligence, eloquence and extraordinary self-sacrifice.”
The decision to resign, Archbishop Chaput said, “is another sign of his placing the needs of the Church above his own.”
Archbishop Samuel Aquila of the Denver Archdiocese, asked that all people of good will join him in “lifting their hearts in gratitude to the Father” for Pope Benedict's ministry.
Pope Benedict, he said, “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.”
Bishop Robert Deeley, an auxiliary of the Archdiocese of Boston, offered his “personal gratitude” to Pope Benedict “for the experience of working closely with him during my time in Rome with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”
Bishop Deeley continued, saying, “I know of his deep and abiding love for the Church.”
“We assure the Holy Father of our prayers and fidelity during these final weeks of his service as the Vicar of Christ.”