THERE was shock across the world as the news of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation seeped through on Monday, and in Fermanagh, it was no different.
Monsignor Joseph McGuinness, Chancellor and Secretary of the Diocese of Clogher, first heard the news when a local radio station called for his thoughts on the announcement.
“I first heard about it when I got a phone call from a local radio station asking what my reaction to the news was. I hadn’t heard the news at that stage, so obviously I was rather stunned,” he said on Tuesday.
The first Pope to resign the papacy in almost 600 years, Pope Benedict was elected in 2005.
“I think, first of all, this event is so unprecedented. No Pope has resigned the papacy in almost 600 years – and therefore even when a Pope has been quite elderly, and infirm, he would remain in office until he died,” continued Monsignor McGuinness.
“We remember particularly the great degree of suffering that Pope John Paul II underwent up until his own death, and yet he retained the office of Pope until he died. So, for Pope Benedict, to have decided to resign in this way will have come as a shock to everyone.”
Canon Peter O’ Reilly, Parish Priest at Enniskillen, was also left surprised.
“It would seem to me that Pope Benedict, in taking this decision, is telling us something about what being Pope is like,” he said.
“Back before the time of telephones, texts, emails, Facebook and Twitter, 24-hour news and analysis, being elderly and infirm was not necessarily a difficulty in so much as things could wait.
“I think of how things have changed for a site manager: years ago there was a site meeting once a week whereas, now it’s twenty-fours-hours-a-day contact which is much harder to manage.”
Monsignor McGuinness described Pope Benedict as a man of ‘very high intellect’.
“I think Pope Benedict will be remembered as a man of very high intellect, and of understanding.
“He’ll be remembered as a Pope who had to deal with very difficult issues, in particular, the issue of abuse.”
Canon O’ Reilly added: “He kept bringing us back to a focus on keeping contact with Jesus as a loving person, a person worth living for and following. He emphasised the importance of beauty and wonder, and those spiritual realities that strengthen our hearts as we go on our journey of life together.”
Monsignor McGuinness concluded, describing the process in which the new Pope will be elected, likely to be before Easter.
“The Cardinals from around the world will gather together in Rome after the resignation comes into effect at the end of February.
“Only those Cardinals under the age of 80 will be able to vote. They will go into conclaves in the Sistine chapel in the Vatican.
“They vote until one candidate receives two thirds of the vote plus one. And, at that point, a new Pope will be deemed elected and proclaimed to the church.”
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