Local Catholic Official Reflects on Pope's Resignation
By John Chappell
Pope Benedict XVI's resignation Monday caught the world by surprise, and nobody could have been more astonished than the Roman Catholic clergy.
Monsignor Jeffrey Ingham at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Southern Pines spoke of the local reaction in a telephone interview Tuesday morning.
"Along with everybody else we were - to say the least, surprised - even shocked," he said. "As you know, a pope hasn't done this for almost 600 years."
The parish runs Pope John Paul II Catholic School, and Ingham immediately met with its students to speak with them about the pope's choice. He compared the way this pope and his predecessor - for whom the school is named - each dealt with the travails of age.
"In the course of life it is often possible to have more than one option that is honorable," he told the schoolchildren. "Sometimes there are many. Our previous Holy Father suffered so much; he wanted the world to see his suffering. He wanted the people to know he was united with them in their suffering. Together their suffering would be taken to the cross. This pope has perhaps realized that he doesn't have the energy to do it any longer, so he will do the honorable thing and step down."
Popes these days have to travel the world, and that's one of the major differences in carrying out the ministry of St. Peter.
"It's not like the old days when they never left the Vatican," he said. "They have to do so many other things as well. It is incredible to think of doing that at any age, much less at 85."
Some think the College of Cardinals when it meets in March could choose a younger man. This will be an interesting election, Ingham says, because of the weeks remaining before the conclave when the cardinals have time to think about it.
"The pope gave all of us a couple of weeks," he said. "I find that rather humorous. I'd love to have been there when the pope floated that out in the middle of a meeting - just to see the look on the cardinals' faces and their reaction to it."
The pope's intention to enter a monastery within the Vatican walls to spend his remaining life in contemplation strikes the monsignor as significant.
"It is a wonderful thing that he wants to go into a contemplative life," he said. "We have become such an active world, but without any basis for our action. The Church has always said that the contemplative life is essential to the active life. This is really going to be fruitful."
All the great reforms of the Roman Church since before the Middle Ages grew out of monasteries.
"Particularly with St. Benedict, who sort of preserved Western culture through the Dark Ages," he said. "It is a very difficult path. We will see what will happen this time. Pope Benedict chose that name for that very reason and his great devotion to him."
The last pope to resign was a Benedictine monk, later canonized.
"We will see what name the next pope will choose. I was thinking myself that there were two popes in history at very difficult times, and both chose the same name. There was Gregory the Great and Gregory the Seventh. Maybe the Church needs another Gregory - though I doubt the next pope will take my advice.
Contact John Chappell at (910)783-5841 or jfchappell @gmail.com.
More like this story