VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The retirement of Pope Benedict XVI and the election of a new pope “is a unique moment for teaching about the role of the papacy and the individual involved,” said U.S. Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien.
“This is an important world event, and I hope we can use it as a teaching moment and a moment of grace,” said the cardinal, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.
The cardinal, former archbishop of Baltimore, said his prayer is that “hucksters don’t derail” the news about the pope’s resignation by trying to fit the papal transition into a story about “liberals and conservatives” or by trying to invent scandals and conspiracies.
Especially during the Year of Faith, he said, a papal transition is an occasion to help Catholics and others understand the church and its structure.
“The timing is for a reason,” he told Catholic News Service.
Cardinal O’Brien was present Feb. 11 when Pope Benedict, speaking in Latin, told cardinals living in Rome that, after much prayer, he believed his age and diminishing energy meant he should retire for the good of the church.
“I didn’t believe it. I didn’t want to believe it,” he said.
The cardinal said his Latin is “not good,” but, “I saw the reaction on peoples’ faces and I caught a few key words.”
After the pope had finished, he said, the cardinals were silent, and then started talking in small groups.
The 73-year-old Cardinal O’Brien is one of 117 cardinals who are under age 80 and therefore eligible to vote in the upcoming conclave to elect a new pope.
— By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service