Claremore priest offers insights on Pope’s resignation
Tom Fink Staff Reporter
With Monday’s announcement from Pope Benedict XVI that he would be resigning as of Feb. 28, members within and outside of the Catholic faith may have been asking “What’s next?”
Perhaps fewer Rogers County residents have been watching news from the Vatican with a keener interest than Father Paul Eichoff with St. Cecilia Catholic Church of Claremore.
As history unfolds in Rome, Father Eichoff speculates about their significance for the Catholic church and for himself as a member of the faith.
“First of all, I think it (Pope Benedict’s announcement he will retire) came as something of a surprise to all of us,” said Father Eichoff. “Like everyone else, I heard about it on the radio and later the television — it was something which has happened before (in the church), but not for a long time — it was nothing that any of us had experienced in our lifetimes.
“For myself and my church, our life continues — we begin Ash Wednesday this week and deliberation of Lent,” he continued. “The church will be praying for guidance for the cardinal’s selection of a new papal, and for Pope Benedict as he prepares for retirement.”
As a pastor, Father Eichoff said he’s “very proud” of Pope Benedict’s strength to announce his plans to step down.
“To say one is no longer able to bear the burden of the office requires a great deal of courage — I’m confident that the Holy Spirit will guide the selection of a new papal for the church,” he said. “At the same time, the style of John Paul II was different (than that of Benedict XVI) in that we saw him publicly carrying the burden of his office through his illness, almost right to the very end.
“In this way, I feel that John Paul showed us all how life — even life in extreme frailty and weakness — has value,” he said.
Normally, when a Pope dies, Cardinals of the church convene in a concistory, Father Eichoff said, but with Pope Benedict’s announcement of retirement, the cardinals should have more time to travel to Rome to gather in a papal conclave to begin the process of electing a new Pope.
“Right now, I think there are 120 cardinals appointed by John Paul II and Benedict XVI,” he said. “As far as who might be considered as the next pope, I couldn’t say — I think there was some talk about a cardinal from Nigeria, one from Brazil, and another from Canada, but one never really knows.”
Father Eichoff did suggest that Pope Benedict’s stepping down could signify the need to consider a younger “candidate” for the next pope, given the responsibilities and burdens of the office, but such was mere speculation.
“I think Pope Benedict continued the work of John Paul II, but he’s highly intellectual — a scholar, and he tried to internationalize the concerns of the church in terms of reaching out to the whole world,” he said.
As to how things at St. Cecilia will change, Father Eichoff said simply, “Not at all.”
“Everything will continue (at the church) as always, and we’ll still pray for Benedict XVI, albeit in a different way,” he said, “and our prayers will go up for the cardinals in their selection of the next pope. This is a great time of hope for the church.”