Catholic, scholar, bishop react to papal resignation
By Janelle Walker For The Courier-News February 11, 2013 12:52PM
In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Mons. Franco Comaldo, left, a pope aide, looks at Pope Benedict XVI as he reads a document in Latin where he announces his resignation, during a meeting of Vatican cardinals, at the Vatican, Monday, Feb. 11, 2013. Benedict XVI announced Monday that he would resign Feb. 28 - the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years. The decision sets the stage for a conclave to elect a new pope before the end of March. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, ho)
Updated: March 19, 2013 4:11PM
ELGIN — Jeff Mlinarich, a parishioner at Elgin’s St. Thomas More Catholic Church, didn’t know a pope could resign.
But since its been 600 years since that has happened in the Catholic church, it isn’t surprising he didn’t know that, said the 51-year-old Elgin resident.
According to the Vatican News service, Pope Benedict XVI on Monday said he plans on resigning the papal office on Feb. 28. The last papal resignation was in 1415.
Mlinarich, who has attended St. Thomas More since moving to Elgin in 1999, said he was still waiting to read more information about the surprise resignation before formulating an opinion. He was unsure if the resignation will mean much to parishioners on a day-to-day level.
“There is still a lot of unknowns. Additional information has come out as to the pope and if there are any reasons for it right now,” Mlinarich said.
“I was really surprised. I learned something there … since it’s been 600 years since that has happened, it is understandable. But I am curious as to the timing and the reasons behind it. Are there health reasons? It is curious ... as to the short window that he has provided,” he added.
From pope to pope, there are always changes in the church, but few that really have any impact on any one church, he said.
“Our community is based on our interaction with our priest, with our bishop in Rockford. I think it is too early to tell” if a new pope, likely to be elected in March, will change the local churches, he said.
“From pope to pope, if there are reforms and changes, it works its way down to all of us” eventually, he added.
Bishop David J. Malloy of the Rockford Diocese made an official statement at noon Monday regarding the resignation announcement. In it, he noted his opportunities to meet with the pope during various trips to Rome. Pope Benedict appointed Mallory as the ninth Bishop of the Diocese of Rockford.
“I feel a particular closeness to the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI on several accounts,” Mallory’s statement said. “... as General Secretary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I had the privilege to meet him on several occasions during trips to Rome with the USCCB President and other representatives of the conference. The pope’s gestures of kindness and priestly virtue were always a most striking characteristic of his personality.”
From outside of the church looking in, it is an interesting development, said Mark Torgerson, a Judson University professor of worship arts/Biblical and theological studies.
While not Catholic himself, Torgerson did his master’s and doctorate work at the University of Notre Dame and is familiar with Pope Benedict and his papal legacy.
“The man is absolutely brilliant. He is a very good scholar and very thoughtful in his deliberations,” Torgerson said.
As pope, Benedict “is more conservative and has shifted the church, in terms of leadership, into a more conservative agenda,” Torgerson said.
His area of expertise is in liturgy and worship, Torgerson noted. As Vatican II modernized worship in many ways, Benedict as Cardinal Ratzinger, was resistant to some of those revisions and experimentation in the church, Torgerson said.
“As as a cardinal, he seemed to be dismantling a bit of that openness and that movement forward,” Torgerson said.
Still, he said, the changes Pope Benedict created were not as severe as some in the church were afraid of, he added.
What Benedict did do, parishioner Mlinarich said, is begin to focus on bringing lapsed Catholics back to the church.
“I know we have initiatives, of wanting to have more coming back and practice their faith more,” Mlinarich said. “It has always been very consistent on fundamental teachings. That is the one thing that has always been important to me.”