By Cathy Harasta
The Texas Catholic
Theologians, priests and parishioners in the Diocese of Dallas reacted with surprise at Pope Benedict XVI’s Feb. 11 resignation announcement, but once they absorbed the news from Rome, they expressed admiration for the Holy Father, his exemplary courage and selfless love for the Catholic Church.
Father Abbot Emeritus Denis Farkasfalvy, O.Cist., said that the pope’s announcement that he will step down on Feb. 28 completely surprised most of the world.
“The ultimate meaning of it is that the Holy Father wants to work out a path for others to follow so that future popes would not feel trapped by longevity with the burden of this enormous office on their shoulders,” said Father Abbot Emeritus Farkasfalvy, who teaches theology at the University of Dallas and retired as the abbot of Cistercian Abbey Our Lady of Dallas in Irving last year. “To freely extrapolate on a biblical verse, no one has more love than one who gives away his power and authority for the common good of the church.”
Father Abbot Farkasfalvy, who is a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, said that the pope demonstrated profound understanding and diplomacy.
“Benedict XVI manifested not only deep insight into the nature of his ministry but took care of a centuries-old problem, by giving an example for future popes with not one word of criticism about popes who acted otherwise,” he said. “In his well-crafted statement announcing his resignation, he paired off the actions requiring mental and physical health with the prayer and suffering entailed in the office.”
During his homily at the noon Mass at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe on Feb. 11, Father Rudy Garcia said that the Holy Father’s decision demonstrated that he has the courage and humility to do what is best for the church.
“He said, ‘It’s not about me, it’s about what the Holy Spirit wants to do in the church and with the church in these modern times,’ ” said Father Garcia, who is the rector of the cathedral and the former director of vocations for the Diocese of Dallas.
After the Mass, Father Garcia recalled studying theology in Rome in the mid-1990s and meeting then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
Father Garcia said that Cardinal Ratzinger had helped found the international study center where Father Garcia was staying. The cardinal delivered lectures at the center, Father Garcia said.
“He was a man with a deep realism about the world and church,” Father Garcia said. “He was a man of great theological depth, but I think the humility and realism have led him to this decision.”
Christopher J. Malloy, associate professor of theology at UD, said that the pope “…humbly accepted the burden of the papacy and illuminated the world for eight years.”
“His resignation has saddened us,” Malloy said. “Yet, we can be confident the Holy Spirit will move the cardinals to decide before the Father and choose one who will face vigorously the tentacles of Relativism.”
Moe LaVerdure, a parishioner at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Plano, saluted Pope Benedict’s decision.
“He’s very straight-forward,” LaVerdure said. “I’ve read several of his books. He’s humble by recognizing that he’s getting tired. I like that he’s straight-forward. I think he’s making the right decision.”
Patricia Chebino, a parishioner at St. Monica Catholic Church who is a nurse, said that the resignation announcement surprised her but she understood the pope’s grasp of his health concerns.
“It was a shock,” she said. “I have to admire our Holy Father. I think it was honorable of him. I think that he’s done a tremendous job.”
Be sure to check out the Feb. 15 print edition of The Texas Catholic for more coverage of Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement.