Atlanta Catholics surprised by pope’s resignation

Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement that he would resign effective Feb. 28 took local Catholics by surprise Monday.

Joe Ward, a parishioner at Holy Spirit Catholic Church, stopped by the Cathedral of Christ the King on Peachtree Road early Monday to say morning prayers.

Ward told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he was “totally surprised, very shocked” by the news of the pope’s resignation.

“I had never heard of that being a possibility,” Ward said. “I really didn’t realize that it was an option.”

While admitting that he doesn’t know all the circumstances behind the pope’s decision, Ward said, “the Holy Spirit may be speaking to him to tell him that this is an opportunity to pass it on.”

Dave Capano, a member of St. Andrew Catholic Church in Roswell, also stopped by Christ the King for morning prayers.

Capano said he hadn’t heard the news until reporters told him.

“I didn’t know that his health might be failing,” Capano said. “Maybe he’s stepping down to have somebody come in and take the church in a little different direction … from a social perspective. … I don’t know if that’s the reason why or not.”

Regardless, Capano said the decision would likely turn out for the best.

“You cannot second guess the Holy Spirit,” he said. “He’ll lead you in ways that you don’t know exist.”

The Rev. Frank McNamee, pastor of Christ the King, said he learned about the resignation “this morning when I went down to make a cup of coffee, and Monsignor Richard Lopez was there, and he says, ‘the Holy Father is retiring,’ and I said, ‘are you serious?,’ and he said, ‘yes, it’s all over the news.’”

“Like everybody, we were rather shocked by this news this morning. This was totally unexpected,” McNamee said.

“I believe that Pope Benedict will do what is good for the church,” McNamee told the AJC. “He’s always done that, and I’m sure he is saying, ‘what is good for the church at this time?’”

McNamee said there is “going to be a lot of speculation over the next few weeks” about the next pope.

“There’s going to be a lot of talk out there, but we have to pray now for the College of Cardinals, that God’s wisdom be with them as they are entrusted with such a great responsibility to elect the new successor,” he said.