Bishop Richard Malone, the leader of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, says Monday’s announcement from Pope Benedict XVI that he would be resigning at the end of the month came as a surprise.
After celebrating Mass at the Mercy Center, Bishop Malone told reporters he thinks Benedict's resignation may be "for the good of the church."
"We went through that long period with Pope John Paul II seeing him get sicker and sicker and weaker and weaker, and there was something very beautiful about that. It was a way to see the dignity of old age and a person who was willing to suffer. I wonder if Pope Benedict, knowing his own health was not what it once was, perhaps thought we shouldn't have two papacies in a row that way," Bishop Malone said.
Bishop Malone noted that Pope Benedict appeared in "frail" condition during a Vatican meeting in November 2011. In following Catholic tradition, Benedict's successor will be elected by a conclave of the College Cardinals after he steps down.
Malone issued the following written statement early Monday upon learning the news:
"When I met with the pope in November 2011 at the Vatican, he did seem rather frail. I wish to express my gratitude for his faithful ministry as Successor of St. Peter, his life of scholarship and his faithful leadership of the Catholic Church. One hallmarks of Pope Benedict XVI is his humility and pastoral concern in putting the good of the Church first in his discernment. I cherish the pectoral cross he gave to me and other bishops who met with him during our Ad Limina visit.
During his nearly eight year papacy, we have been witness to his keen intellect through his marvelous encyclicals: God is Love, In Hope We Are Saved and Charity in Truth. His Jesus of Nazareth book series is inspirational.
With the pending resignation of Pope Benedict, the same process by which he was elected in 2005 will be followed as soon as he steps down, with a conclave of the College of Cardinals, guided by Holy Spirit, electing the next pope.
I ask all Catholics in the Diocese of Buffalo to join me in prayer for Pope Benedict XVI, giving thanks to our Heavenly Father for the pope’s lifetime of dedicated, selfless service to the Church."