“I didn’t see it coming,” said Jesuit Father Stephen Sundborg about Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, echoing the thoughts of many Catholics. Pope Benedict’s announcement that he will resign on Feb. 28 makes him the first pope to step down in over 600 years. Here are some reactions and commentary from U.S. Jesuits on the pope’s resignation:
Fr. Sundborg told KOMO News Radio he thinks it means that “this is a very thoughtful pope. He sees he doesn’t have the energy to carry on as pope beyond what his current age and strength is. I think people will respect this [decision].”
Fr. Sunborg went on to say that he thinks Benedict will be remembered as “the pope theologian.”
“He was an expert at the Second Vatican Council 50 years ago. He wrote very extensively about the Gospels. He tried to re-engage culture in a positive way.” Listen to all of Fr. Sundborg’s comments at the KOMO News Radio website.
Jesuit Father George Coyne, a former director of the Vatican Observatory who teaches at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, N.Y., said Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to step down because of poor health is in keeping with the pope’s character.
“I think it was a very courageous move, a very good move,” said Fr. Coyne, who knew Benedict as a cardinal for many years. “I think he had a very personal conviction that he could not carry on the job because of general health conditions.”
Benedict “lived through the aging of John Paul II, and I think that very much influenced him,” Fr. Coyne said. “He didn’t want to see the church go through another period like that.” For more from Fr. Coyne, visit Syracuse.com.
Jesuit Father James Martin, of America magazine, tweeted, “The Holy Father’s resignation is a selfless and noble act done for the good of the Church he has loved and served for his entire life.”
On America’s website, Fr. Martin also wrote about the pope’s legacy: “His most lasting legacy, I would suggest, will not be in the various ‘newsworthy’ acts of his papacy that were highlighted in the media so often … but something far more personal: his books on Jesus. Far more people will most likely read those moving testaments to the person who is at the center of his life—Jesus of Nazareth—than may read all of his encyclicals combined.”
Jesuit Father Drew Christiansen also wrote about the pope’s legacy on America magazine’s website, noting some of the pope’s contributions during his tenure:
“His encyclical Caritas in Veritate, with its affirmation of structural reform as ‘political charity’ and his call for a global authority to regulate the financial sector, may be the most radical since John XXIII’s Pacem in terris 50 years ago. Though not a diplomat himself, he conducted extraordinary visits to Turkey, Britain and the Holy Land. His address to the British leadership in Westminster Hall was both a diplomatic and personal triumph.”
Jesuit Father John Fitzgibbons, president of Regis University in Denver, told the Denver Post that the news was shocking in its impact, but he believed there had been signs.
“I think the Holy Father, Benedict, has signaled in a number of ways he’ was very open to a more humane response to the human realities behind such offices,” Fr. Fitzgibbons said.
Fr. Fitzgibbons said Benedict will be remembered for carrying on John Paul II’s “glowing understanding that this is a worldwide church, and he moved further away from Euro-centrism by appointing cardinals that came from all over the world.”
As for what happens next, Jesuit Father Thomas Reese offers a helpful Q-and-A on the papal transition, conclave and election of new pope on America’s website.