CLEVELAND – Bishop Richard Lennon of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland was notified on Monday morning that Pope Benedict XVI had announced his resignation.
“Honestly, I was having breakfast a little after 6 o’clock and one of the priests came down and told us he had heard it,” said Bishop Lennon, who was aware of Pope Benedict’s health conditions, but was still surprised by the announcement.
“I think it’s a tremendous lesson – his action today – that he loves the church so much and his work for the church that when he’s no longer able to fulfill it, as the position calls for, he was big enough to step aside,” said Bishop Lennon.
During noon mass at Saint John Cathedral in Cleveland, Fr. Ted Marszal admitted that he, too, was caught off-guard. “To realize that sometimes we have to make difficult decisions and those difficult decisions are made and should be made, as he tells us this morning, after much prayer and reflection, may God's strength and blessing be with him in these days ahead,” said Fr. Marszal.
“No idea that anything like this was coming,” said Brook Park resident Frances McGuire. “I mean, our last Pope was not in good physical condition and he kept going, which is what we expect – I think – of all of our popes.”
Kathy Wasserman, from Avon Lake, said she was also shocked but has faith in the future of the church. “I think he was a wonderful man and I think he did an exceptional job under some very tough circumstances and I truly wish him the best,” said Wasserman.
Bishop Lennon has met the Holy Father who, he said, always looks for the good of the people. Lennon is now asking people to pray for the successor who will carry on church tradition. “All that we do is because we're Catholic and it focuses on the person of Jesus Christ,” said Bishop Lennon.
Bishop Lennon urged people not to speculate about what’s next for the church. He is confident the church leadership will make the right decision.