By Cathy Harasta
Dallas Bishop Kevin J. Farrell told a Monday morning news conference that Pope Benedict XVI’s surprising resignation announcement reflected the Holy Father’s humility and great love for the Catholic Church around the world.
Just hours earlier in Rome, the pope announced that he would resign on Feb. 28, a papal step last taken almost 600 years ago.
Bishop Farrell said that Pope Benedict’s leadership has been characterized by frequent travel that reflected his profound desire for the church’s unity and outreach to Catholics who felt disenfranchised.
“He was such a fatherly, kind leader that was a little different from the public image that was portrayed of him when he was elected pope,” Bishop Farrell said at the Pastoral Center.
Bishop Farrell cited the diminished physical strength of the pope, who will turn 86 in April, and the increased demands of his office in a highly technological age. The pope is expected to be everywhere, at all times, the bishop said, and must be the “animator.”
Recalling his visits with the pope last year, Bishop Farrell said that he noticed Pope Benedict’s fatigue had become more apparent in just a few months’ time, between the bishop’s ad limina visit to Rome in March and a conversation he had with the Holy Father at a dinner in Rome in May.
“I always found him so different from his public image,” Bishop Farrell said. “When you were with him, you had a great sense of peace.
“He was like a father to all of us.”
Bishop Farrell reassured Catholics about the church’s continuity and divine guidance, and asked for prayers for the upcoming papal election.