It was the slow effects of age that eventually led to an announcement by the leader of the Roman Catholic Church. YNN's Bill Carey says Pope Benedict is being commended by church leaders and the rank and file for the surprising decision to resign.
NEW YORK -- From the start, Pope Benedict has drawn praise.
“I think he's been a great teacher. He continues to be a great teacher. As a writer, he's a prolific writer. He was before he was Pope and, even afterwards, he's found time to write,” said Bishop Robert Cunningham.
Many New Yorkers got their first, up-close look at Benedict shortly after his selection in 2005, when they gathered in Rome for the beatification of Mother Marianne Cope.
A few years later, thousands followed his journey to New York City. What they saw was an energetic and active church leader.
Many traveled to Rome again last October for ceremonies to name two New Yorkers, Marianne Cope and Kateri Takekwitha, saints.
By the time fall of 2012 came around and Central New York Catholics returned to Rome, it was clear, there had been changes. What they saw was a Pope slowed by age. A reality that led to Benedict's decision.
“I think it's an act of courage, on his part, to recognize that his physical abilities are declining and that somebody else is needed,” Bishop Cunningham said.
“I think we experienced a long, long, long decline of a Pope with John Paul II. And it taught us lessons about how to die. But now I think we're learning new lessons about humility and a different kind of courage,” said Margaret Thompson, Syracuse University Professor of history.
Father George Coyne said, “Very decisive man. Very devoted to the Church. And very interior.”
Father George Coyne, now a professor of astronomy at Le Moyne College, spent 40 years in Rome and often had dealings with Benedict in his days before the papacy.
“He had a very deep, interior, tranquil character. So for him, in prayer, to decide and make this big decision was not easy, but it came because of his deep, deep interior. His spirituality. For the good of the Church and the experience of John Paul II,” Father Coyne said.
For many Catholics now, the question is who will follow Benedict? A conclave of Cardinals will decide that question. But few expect major changes in the Church.
“There might be a new approach to leadership, but I don't think there will be new ideas. Again, I mean the teaching of the Church is timeless. It's eternal. And I don't foresee great changes there,” Bishop Cunningham said.
The Catholic Church has seen a new Pope selected 266 times. The Church, the Bishop says, will go on.