MADISON (WKOW) -- Madison's Catholic bishop told 27 News Pope Benedict's nearly unprecedented decision to resign his spiritual post leaves a legacy of accomplishment, and was a justified resignation.
Bishop Robert Morlino said the Pope's eight years included strides in bringing together people of faith within the Church.
Morlino also said Pope Benedict showed courage and humility in recognizing his advancing age and limitations, and quietly stepping aside. Morlino said he saw the Pope last year in Rome, and while he found him mentally sharp, said Pope Benedict's health challenges were evident.
During a Monday Mass at St. Patrick's church in Madison, a priest devoted his entire homily to the news of the Pope's impending departure, called the resignation within the Church's canon law, and reassured church goers the Catholic faith's core will not be affected by the coming transition.
"It was very reassuring to hear that the Church exists apart from whoever is the Pope at the time, and it's Christ's Church," said parishioner Jeff Vercauteren.
Morlino said while he was shocked by the news of the resignation, he said any surprise was tempered by Pope Benedict's references to the possibility of retirement in the past.
Morlino said in 1999, when the Pope was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Ratzinger told Morlino of Ratzinger's puzzlement over Pope John Paul II's refusal to allow Ratzinger to retire from active ministry to his native Germany. But Morlino told 27 News Ratzinger's selection as Pope in 2004 gave Ratzinger a spiritual "second wind."
Morlino said he hoped retirement did not become an expected transition for aging popes, noting the mystical nature of serving in the role of the head of the worldwide church.
In a statement from director Peter Isely of the Midwest chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), Isely claimed Pope Benedict "...will leave his tenure as Pope without having made the one, simple moral and executive decision that would have...protected potentially millions of children from harm, brought justice to hundreds of thousands of victims, and finally turned the church on a path towards recovery and reform: worldwide zero tolerance of child sex abuse by priests."
Morlino told 27 News Pope Benedict shortened the Church process for addressing suspected sex abuse cases from years to months, and also met with victims of priest sex abuse.
Morlino said former Milwaukee Catholic Archbishop Tim Dolan, who is a Cardinal in New York, should receive consideration when cardinals convene to decide on a new pope. But Morlino doubted an American would be chosen, and said he would like to see a return to the tradition of selecting an Italian to lead the church.
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