‘Surprising For Everybody’
Valley Catholics Reflect On Resignation Of Benedict XVI
Posted: February 13, 2013
HARRISONBURG — Valley Catholics are still recovering from news that shook the faith internationally Monday: the announcement of the Feb. 28 resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.
The Rev. Silvio Kaberia, the head priest of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, had just returned from a monthlong trip to Kenya — his home country — when he heard the news.
“It was very surprising for everybody,” he said, but noted that Benedict’s reason for stepping down is a good one.
The 85-year-old pope, who was elected in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II, will be the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years. During a meeting of Vatican cardinals Monday morning, he cited a lack of the mind and body strength necessary to carry out his work as pope for his decision to step down.
“The modern time now is so demanding,” Kaberia said. “The standard has been put very high.”
Times were easier centuries ago “when the world was not a global village,” he said, but popes are now expected to travel the world, keep up with social media and work around the clock.
But despite the challenges, Benedict did the best he could, Kaberia said.
“I think he tried his best,” he said. “He’s really an intellectual pope. He’s a writer; he’s a teacher; he’s an intellectual in his own right.”
Liz McDavid, a Harrisonburg resident and one of thousands of parishioners at Blessed Sacrament, said she cried tears of joy when Benedict was elected.
“I had read several of his books, and he was very orthodox, very traditional,” McDavid said.
While some have questioned whether Benedict’s traditional beliefs have hurt the Catholic Church at large, others, such as McDavid, appreciate his orthodoxy.
Kaberia summed it up this way: “There will always be different opinions with all different types of people, but the church is growing. We are having a lot of growth in different countries.”
That growth, however, has almost entirely been in the Third World, particularly in Africa and in Latin America. Some have speculated that may lead to the church’s first selection of a non-European pope when the College of Cardinals meets in early March to choose Benedict’s successor.
Kaberia, McDavid and Steve Neill, editor of The Catholic Virginian, the newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, named one candidate they like: Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Canadian head of the Vatican’s Office for Bishops.
But they also acknowledge the uncertainty of the situation.
“You can’t tell these things until the conclave gets in and you see the [white] smoke,” Kaberia said.
The conclave, the secret meeting held in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican where cardinals elect a new pope, is over when white smoke signifying the election pipes out of the chimney.
Eric Pisk, a city resident and parishioner at Blessed Sacrament for 23 years, offered a sentiment shared by several local Catholics on the choosing of the next pope: “I know the Holy Spirit will work through the conclave like it has been for 2,000 years and … will choose the right cardinal to lead the church moving forward.”
All cardinals younger than 80 are invited to join in the conclave, including Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. With no cardinals in Virginia, Wuerl is likely the closest to Harrisonburg, Neill said.
About 1.1 billion people worldwide and roughly 24 percent of the U.S. population identify themselves as Catholic.
Blessed Sacrament, Harrisonburg’s only Catholic Church, is the northernmost parish in the Richmond diocese, which contains about 230,000 Catholics.
Contact Candace Sipos at 574-6275 or firstname.lastname@example.org