My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Like you, I was completely surprised by the news this week of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, set for the end of this month. I am also saddened by the thought of losing his strong leadership for our Church. He is a holy man and a learned scholar of the highest order. He has been for us an inspirational and deeply pastoral shepherd these past eight years.
At the same time, I am impressed by his humility. He has shown great courage in recognizing his deteriorating health as an impediment for the kind of vibrant leadership he believes is needed for the Church at this time in history.
The decision to step down was no doubt a difficult one. I understand he reached his decision only after extensive prayer and reflection. As he said in his statement, “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”
In the time since his announcement, I have reflected a bit on our Holy Father’s legacy.
Indeed, the bishops of Minnesota, North and South Dakota and I met with him just last March as part of our “ad limina” trip to Rome. During the eight-day pilgrimage, my brother bishops and I made our official visit to the Vatican, which included two personal meetings with the Holy Father. The “ad limina” visit occurs approximately every five years. In hindsight, it was an enormous blessing to have had our timing for the visit fall within the last year of this pope’s tenure.
I recall fondly our meeting with the pope. I will always remember the way in which he listened intently to each bishop about news from our respective dioceses. I remember his gracious demeanor and attentive pastoral interest in us all.
I also remember the peace I felt in his presence. And I will never forget when, in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican, the Holy Father gave a truly stirring talk on the incredibly important concerns about marriage and family life. I had the great honor of addressing the pope before his talk. It was an experience that I will treasure warmly in my memory for as long as I live.
Indeed, the Holy Father’s resignation is an historic event and one that requires our prayers during this time of transition. The process of electing a successor has a long history and reflects the great traditions of the Church.
Truly, the Holy Spirit guides this process, as He works through those human vessels who will be entrusted in electing the new pope. We can have great confidence in this process, which is tried and true, and know with comfort and assurance that our next Holy Father will be exactly who our Lord has known from all eternity would be the successor to Peter at this time in human history.
As this process moves forward and our Church unites around a new shepherd in March, you can be sure that The Catholic Spirit, our newspaper of this archdiocese, and archspm.org will provide up-to-date information.
Thank you for joining your prayers to mine, united in faith, hope and love, during this important time in the history of our one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
May God bless you all!