Some Hoosier Catholics were shocked at the pope’s announcement Monday that he was resigning–an understandable reaction since a pope has not resigned the papacy in almost 600 years.
In Monroe County, the congregation of St. Paul Catholic Center has 600 families registered and about 2,000 students that worship there throughout the week. Father Simon Felix Michalski says he heard about the pope’s resignation Monday morning by text. He says the first thing he did in morning Mass was to pray for Pope Benedict as well as the new Pope.
Michalski says he wants the church to continue in the direction of what Pope John Paul II called the spiritual spring time of moving things forward.
“It’s a very difficult ministry that he’s doing and so for him to realize that he can just not carry it on anymore and that a new person should come and take this over I admire that greatly,” he says. “That shows a lot of self-care, wisdom and humility.”
But the head of the Catholic Archdiocese in Indianapolis was not caught completely off guard.
Archbishop Joseph Tobin, who is the leader of 240,000 Roman Catholics in Central and Southern Indiana, says he was in morning prayer when he received the phone call from Rome.
Tobin worked in Rome prior to his appointment to Indianapolis late last year. He had several interactions with the Pope, and says he could see that Benedict was physically aging, that it was more difficult for him to stand and walk.
“I saw a fellow in his mid-80s who was finding it much more difficult to walk and to stand, and I think he had a great anxiety about falling, which is not unusual for people his age,” Tobin says.
Tobin says the Pope‘s mind was still sharp, and Tobin believes part of the reason he resigned was his experience with his predecessor, John Paul II.
John Paul‘s physical deterioration in his final weeks brought tens of thousands to the Vatican for a lengthy vigil that lasted until his death seven years ago.
Pope Benedict XVI will remain in his position until Feb. 28.
Network Indiana contributed to this report.