Local Church Leaders, Residents React to Pope's Resignation

By Geena Martinez
NewsWest 9

ODESSA - The Catholic community is still in shock after Pope Benedict XVI announced he's stepping down at the end of the month.

The surprising news has everyone talking.

It's the resignation heard around the world, literally.

On Monday, Pope Benedict XVI announced his last day as the highest leader in the Catholic church would be February 28th.

In a letter the 85-year-old says, "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."

Father Michael Rodriguez of Holy Redeemer Catholic Church was shocked after hearing the announcement.

"Oh, I was surprised," Fr. Rodriguez said. "I was surprised because I thought he was still in fairly good health. A lot better health than John Paul II was at the same age."

Fr. Rodriguez met Pope Benedict when he was Cardinal Ratzinger on a trip to Rome back in 1993.

"He listens to you, he very much listens to you and what you're saying, talks to you and you are the person at that moment," he said. "He was still very personable."

He said he has mixed emotions.

"Well there's part of me, I believe it's like a captain who goes down with his ship, you go until the end," Fr. Rodriguez said. "But as he said, he felt that he could no longer take on the responsibility."

Local residents weighed in on our NewsWest 9 Facebook page.

Heather Hale said, "I find it humbling to see a man of such stature admit he is too weak to continue. It shows how much he cares about his church he has been entrusted."

Sandy Jeter Taylor agreed and added, "They might consider filling that position with somebody who is much younger and that way they will be there longer."

But others have their doubts.

Jesse Hernandez said, "His conscience must bother him, there must be a lot of corruption and he wants no part of it."

Even though the Pope is stepping down after less than a decade of leading the Vatican, Fr. Rodriguez said he left his mark.

"Benedict to me was more of an extension to John Paul's legacy," he said. "A lot of what Benedict did was to extend the global vision of the church."

And as for the future of the Catholic church, Fr. Rodriguez has this message to parishioners.

"We just trust that God is with His church, he's never abandoned His church through all the beautiful moments and majestic moments but also through the tragedies and scandals, the church has survived and will survive," he said.

This is the first time in centuries that a Pope has resigned.