Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley this afternoon praised Pope Benedict XVI for his courage, faith and leadership after learning of the pontiff’s plans to resign later this month.
In a statement released by the Archdiocese of Boston, O’Malley said Pope Benedict, “maintained the truth and clarity of the Catholic faith,” improved interfaith dialogue and “reached out to inspire the next generation of Catholics.”
O’Malley said he and other church leaders will call upon the “wisdom of the Holy Spirit” as the church moves forward to pick a successor sometime in March.
Former US ambassador to the Vatican Ray Flynn Monday called the retirement announcement by Pope Benedict a courageous act of “selflessness.”
Flynn, the former mayor of Boston, said Benedict always “put the church and God above his own personal ambition.”
“If you listen to the words of his resignation, they are quite remarkable,” Flynn said in an interview this morning.
Flynn said he thinks the growing Catholic communities in Latin America and Africa will have a greater role in who is chosen to lead the Roman Catholic Church and its estimated 1 billion followers.
“There is a sign that Africa, Latin and Central America are having a greater more effective voice in the Catholic church and the church’s leadership could emerge from those areas of the world.”
Bishop Robert Deeley, the vicar general of the Archdiocese of Boston, expressed support for Benedict’s historic decision to step down.
Today in Rome, the 85-year-old Pope Benedict XVI told a gathering of cardinals that he was resigning at the end of this month due to the infirmities of his age, becoming the first pope since 1415 to step down instead of dying in office.
“At this time we give thanks to God for the gift of Pope Benedict XVI’s faithful leadership of the Roman Catholic Church during the past 8 years of his papacy,’’ Deeley said in a statement.
Deeley said that he worked directly with the pope while serving in Rome before taking on his assignment here in Boston. The pontiff plans to step down Feb. 28.
“We assure the Holy Father of our prayers and fidelity during these final weeks of his service as the Vicar of Christ,’’ Deeley said. “In particular I offer my personal gratitude to the Holy Father for the experience of working closely with him during my time in Rome with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.’’
He added, “I know of his deep and abiding love for the Church and for fulfilling the saving ministry of Jesus.”John R. Ellement can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe