I am in shock
By RICHARDSON DHALAI Wednesday, February 13 2013
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Archbishop of Port-of-Spain Joseph Harris...
ARCHBISHOP of Port-of-Spain Joseph Harris yesterday said Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement that he would resign as leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholic-strong faith, had caught him totally by surprise and left him in shock.
“Yes, I was shocked. We all were. I think this is the first time in 600 years that a sitting Pope has resigned. Usually, a Pontiff heads the Holy Church until death. But this shows that nothing is cast in stone.
“I don’t know who the next Pope will be and while there is a lot of speculation in the media about who it is likely to be, I think we should all wait and see what happens. I don’t think we can start saying it will be this one or that one,” His Grace said.
On Monday, the Vatican announced that the 85-year-old Pontiff would resign at the end of the month, becoming the first Pope in almost 600 years to freely resign rather than die in the post. In a statement issued by the Holy See, Pope Benedict said he was resigning due to what he termed his “incapacity” to continue in the post due to “advanced age” and the deterioration of his health.
In responding to this, Archbishop Harris said, “I believe the Holy Spirit will enlighten the Cardinals as to who the successor should be. There’s a saying in the Catholic Church, ‘he who goes in Pope comes out a Cardinal’. In other words the popular person may not be the person who is elected.”
Asked whether it was likely the next Pope could come not from Europe but from Africa or the Western Hemisphere, Archbishop Harris responded, “I see the speculation and I smile to myself, but no one knows. But it may be that the future Pope may come from our part of the world or Africa...we just don’t know.”
Asked whether any country can make recommendations, Harris replied that it was solely up to the College of Cardinals who will meet in Conclave to elect a new Pope. “No country can make recommendations. In fact Cardinals are locked away in the Sistine Chapel where they meet and while they are in conclave, they cannot make contact with the outside world. They have to stay inside until a successor is named,” he explained.
As to when the selection process would take place, Archbishop Harris said once the seat becomes vacant on February 28, the selection process would begin.
“The following morning, March 1, the Conclave will begin putting arrangements in place for the holding of a meeting. That has to take place between 15 and 20 days after the seat becomes vacant.
“The College of Cardinals will then meet to elect a new Pope. That meeting will take us well into March and almost at the start of Easter, so the Catholic Church will have a new Pope for Easter,” he responded.
Meanwhile, parish priest at Our Lady of Perpetual Help RC Church in San Fernando, Monsignor Christian Perreira told Newsday the solemnity of the Lenten observance had increased with Pope Benedict’s impending resignation. He said the congregation would focus on prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the choosing of a new Pope.
Msgr Perreira said while the Pope’s reasons for his resignation are “very courageous”, he acknowledged the announcement had “shocked” the local Catholic Church. “What the Pope did was a very courageous thing especially as it concerns his physical health and he would have known his capabilities,” Msgr Perreira said, noting last Sunday’s Scriptural reading had been taken from the New Testament book of Corinthians in which the Apostle Paul exhorted the Corinthian Church to “remain faithful to the Gospel as one never knows what to expect of tomorrow.”
“Pope Benedict is a great leader of the Church and as Catholics we have to move forward in the faith knowing that the Lord knows what’s best and will put in place a leader to guide His Church.
“As Catholics we have to rally together and not spend too much time speculating about who could become the next Pope.
“What we have to do is keep the faith and focus on the Lord Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirt to bring us through,” Msgr Perreira said.
Asked whether the next Pontiff could emerge from Latin America or the African continent, Msgr Perreira said, “A leader will emerge and this will be done under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”
In the latest online edition of the Catholic News, dated February 11, president of the Antilles Episcopal Conference, Archbishop Patrick Pinder of Nassau, Bahamas, also noted that Pope Benedict’s resignation had been greeted with “some degree of sadness”, as he recalled, “fond memories of our group and individual meetings with him during our last ad limina visit in 2008.”
“His warm and serene personality, profound erudition coupled with his gift for clarity and simplicity of expression and his gentle character all endeared him to us,” Pinder stated, adding, “we understand the basis of his decision, namely his declining physical health. Indeed his less than agile gait has been apparent for some time. Pinder said the decision of Pope Benedict XVI is “a courageous one” which reminds believers that, “office in the Church even the highest office, is not essentially about power and the exercise of authority.
“Rather it is essentially about ministry and service,” Pinder stated. He too noted as the Church entered its Lenten journey, “let us pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance. Let’s pray that the Holy Spirit continues to guide and inspire the Church as we prepare for the election of the next Successor of St Peter.” (See Page 23A)