DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The papal shockwaves rippled across the world — all the way to North Texas. News that Pope Benedict is resigning surprised the world. After the Vatican made the announcement Monday morning local Catholics and church leaders sat bewildered.
At first, Bishop Kevin Farrell, of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas, thought the whole thing was a joke. “My first word to Annette [diocesan spokeswoman] this morning, was, ‘it’s a hoax,’” he said. “I didn’t want to believe it.”
Pope Benedict XVI cited his advanced age and the demands of the position as his reasons for stepping down.
Of the decision Bishop Farrell said, “I understand perfectly where he is coming from. He sees the need today for the world to be challenged in a different way, and he feels he doesn’t have the energy to do it.”
Pope Benedict’s decision marks the first papal resignation since Pope Gregory XII stepped down in 1415. As the church bells tolled for midday mass, North Texas Catholics had a lot on their minds.
“I’m still absorbing it all myself,” parishioner Stephen Taylor said. “We’ll push forward.” Catholic Gail Madden said, “I think he realized he had limitations, due to his age. God Bless him.”
Bishop Farrell remembered meeting with Pope Benedict in March of last year, during a gathering of bishops at the Vatican. “He was engaged, wanted to know what each of the Bishops did… I remember speaking to him about the great growth of the Diocese of Dallas, and the great needs that we had here.”
Just a few months after that meeting Farrell spoke of how the Pope’s appearance had changed. “I did notice that he was tired, very tired… very alert, but struggling.”
The Dallas bishop said he will remember Pope Benedict as a kind and fatherly figure, a man of great intellect, and humility. All qualities he said are evident by Pope Benedict’s decision to step down for the good of the church.
“He’s the one that has to be out there on the front line all the time, and if he obviously doesn’t have the strength and the energy to do that, then I agree with the Holy Father, strongly.”
Parishioners are left remembering Pope Benedict, now 85 years old, as a great man who was humble enough to know when he could not live up to the demands required for the position.