After the news of Pope Benedict XVI’s abdication on Monday, Bishop George Murry of the Youngstown diocese held a press conference.
The 85-year-old pope will resign due to health concerns. Murry said he understands Benedict’s decision to step away and let someone else serve. The pope’s resignation will take effect at 8 p.m. Rome time on Feb. 28.
“I thought it was a very noble thing of him to do,” Murry said. “I would imagine it is a hard thing for him to do because he loves the church.”
Murry said historically it is unusual for a pope to resign because most stay in office until their death. No pope has survived the position since Pope Celestine V in the 13th century.
“I think that as the pope said in his official statement, he has become aware of his physical and mental capacities diminishing,” Murry said. “His decision is rooted in his concern about the future of the church. He’s not looking at his well-being, but he’s looking at the well-being of the church.”
Victor Wan-Tatah, a professor of philosophy and religious studies at Youngstown State University, said he was surprised by the pope’s resignation.
“I don’t think anybody anticipated or expected this to happen,” Wan-Tatah said.
“One cannot dispute his reasons, and no predecessors did this, even though some of them may have been physically or mentally tired.”
Wan-Tatah said he follows these church developments and thinks it will be a challenge to the Roman Catholic Church to identify a leading candidate.
Murry said the choice is usually made from the College of Cardinals, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. The cardinals under 80 years of age will be able to vote for a new pope. Murry said Benedict appointed the majority of cardinals under that age.
Murry met Pope Benedict XVI in Rome in 2007 just before being appointed to Youngstown and then again last year when all of the Ohio bishops met.
Murry said the newly elected pope will have to understand the speed and complexity of the church.
“I don’t think he necessarily has to know how to tweet, but he does need to know how to turn on a computer,” Murry said. “I think that the next pope would be well advised to understand the communication revolution.”
Murry said the pope needs to be technologically savvy and aware of diversity. He said the new pope “must identify what is in the best interest of the people he or she serves.”