Cardinal Francis George met with Pope Benedict XVI last Thursday, but he was as surprised as anybody at the pope’s resignation.
“There was not the slightest indication in my mind that he was about to resign,” said George at a news conference Monday afternoon.
George noted however, that the pope looked “like a man who is feeling the weight of his years.”
George also said the pontiff’s decision to become the first pope to resign in 600 years “shows that he’s a courageous man . . . he’s very concerned with what’s best for the church and what would the Lord have me do.”
George, who will be among those who choose a new pope, said it is likely that candidates from South America and Africa will be among those considered to succeed pope Benedict, but that personality will be a bigger factor than geography.
“Usually, they raise questions first of all in terms of personalities,” the cardinal said. “Who can govern the church, who can teach, who can sanctify. These are the functions of the papacy, so it matters less where someone’s from than whether or not he is capable of being a successor to Peter.”
Parishioners leaving Monday morning mass at Holy Name Cathedral seemed amazed that their leader has decided to resign.
Sarah Taich, 62, a Realtor who lives on the Near North Side, like others interviewed Monday, said she understands the pope’s decision.
Susan Sperling, a Catholic school tacher, was glad the pope had “recognized his frailties.”
“It’s a hard job,” Sperling said. “He wants someone else to have a chance, and there are plenty of people who could step up. He did have big shoes to fill. You could find people on both sides — who said he did a great job and some who said he didn’t do enough. I would kind of fall in the middle.”
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