Bishop Leonard Blair of the Toledo Catholic Diocese said he was surprised to read online this morning about Pope Benedict XVI's decision to resign, and expressed "a sense of loss" over the announcement.
In a news conference Monday morning (Feb. 11) at the Catholic Center downtown, the bishop said he met with Pope Benedict a year ago at the Vatican in an ad limina visit, the periodic meetings bishops have with the pontiff to discuss the status of their dioceses. Blair said it was evident at the time that Pope Benedict "was already showing his age."
Still, the bishop said he was not expecting to see the news online this morning that the 85-year-old pope will resign Feb. 28 after nearly eight years in office. At age 78, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was the oldest man to be elected pope in over 250 years.
Blair said the pope is "our spiritual 'Holy Father' with all that implies for our life of faith in Christ."
He said Benedict "has fulfilled that role most admirably, with total dedication as a great pastor and teacher of the faith. Our profound gratitude and prayerful support will remain with him always."
Blair, 63, said "now that the years have taken their toll, we do not begrudge him the repose he seeks for whatever time remains to him in this life. His resignation is itself a lesson in humility, courage and faith."
He said he and the diocese will be praying for "guidance of the Holy Spirit in the election of a worthy successor."
Blair said he had no thoughts on who the next pope might be nor what papal name Pope Benedict's successor might pick. He did say it would be a interesting if the next pope were to choose the name Sixtus, since there were five previous popes with that name and the next one's name would be a tongue twister: "Pope Sixtus the Sixth."