Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation has surprised many members of the Roman Catholic faith — among them Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, leader of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany.
“But as I thought more about it, I remembered that Pope Benedict had said before that if, in conscience, he ever reached the point where his health would compromise his responsibilities, he would step down,” Hubbard said in a statement Monday morning. “His resignation is the latest in his acts of selfless service on behalf of the Church.”
According to wire reports, Benedict announced his decision in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals earlier Monday. The 85-year pontiff said he was stepping down because of age-related concerns; he becomes the first pope to leave office in such a manner in 600 years.
Benedict has served less than eight years as pope. He will resign on Feb. 28, according to reports, and Vatican officials say a new pope will be elected by Easter Sunday, March 31.
Hubbard called Benedict a “learned and visionary man.”
“In his encyclicals, God is Love and Charity in Truth, Pope Benedict affirms the primacy of love in the Christian life and noted that we must give expression to that love not only through our acts of mercy and kindness to others but through acts of social justice advocacy, especially on behalf of the poor and disadvantaged,” Hubbard said in his statement. “In a world darkened by discouragement, disillusionment, despair, skepticism, cynicism and moral relativism, in his encyclical Salve Spe, Pope Benedict offers a ray of hope and a message of Church optimism.”
Benedict was 78 when he was elected to succeed the late Pope John Paul II in 2005. He became the oldest person chosen to head the church since the 18th century.
“I pray that in his retirement, Pope Benedict will enjoy the opportunity for more leisure and further scholarly pursuits, which his long life of faithful service to the Church so deserves,” Hubbard said.