OBSERVER Staff Writer
For the first time in nearly 600 years, the head of the Catholic Church is resigning. Pope Benedict XVI Monday announced his resignation will be effective Feb. 28.
Joseph Ratzinger was elected by a group of fellow cardinals in 2005 following the death of then Pope John Paul II. He is 85. The Diocese of Buffalo Bishop Richard Malone held a press conference Monday morning in South Buffalo addressing the resignation. Malone had previously met the pope in November 2011; he recalled the meeting as a "remarkable meeting." Malone remembered him as a "quiet, gracious and gentle man."
The Diocese of Buffalo Richard Malone (right) is seen with Pope Benedict XVI during a visit in November 2011.
"I remembered that he seemed more fragile than I had thought he would be. He seemed more frail to me," Malone said. "I had not seen him probably for about 10 years before he was pope. I was in Rome ... for a meeting and I met him in the street."
Other leaders from area churches are weighing in on the resignation of the pope. Felician Sister Mary Elizabeth Mackowiak, pastoral associate for Holy Trinity Church, was grateful for his time served as the Holy Father.
"We're very grateful for having the experience of Benedict XVI as our pope," she said. "We realize that we'll be going through a very historical event since we'll be living through another Conclave."
Malone also said he was not terribly shocked to hear of the resignation, citing Pope Benedict has given clues about stepping down previously.
"He had hinted on a couple of occasions in the past year ... for the Holy Father to stay on forever if there are some reasons why he's not up to the task," he said. "It's not the first time a pope has stepped down for various reasons. I think it's for the good of the church."
The Rev. Dennis Riter of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church said while the resignation took many by surprise, Riter could notice the deterioration of the pope's health.
"It was unexpected, however it was quite noticeable that physically he was more and more at a challenge. It seems to me it makes eminent sense to ... pass along to someone," Riter said. "He did his best to steer the church given his own life expectations and where God was leading him."
Pope Gregory XII was the last pope to resign in 1415. A new pope will be elected during Conclave, where all the cardinals under the age of 80 are eligible to vote. The Conclave is expected to occur in March.
"I hope and pray it is exactly the right person we need whoever he is," Malone said.
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