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Amarillo diocese reacts to papal abdication

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Amarillo, TX -- More than one billion people will soon have a new spiritual leader after the Pope's sudden resignation.

This morning (Feb. 11), Pope Benedict XVI announced he will abdicate his seat by the end of the month because of failing health.  Benedict XVI was instated in 2005, and in the last several months, his health has been waning.

In today's announcement, Benedict said he did not believe he could adequately fulfill his papal responsibilities given his physical limitations.  and while church officials respect Benedict's decision, the impending transition is driving the search for his replacement.

At the Vatican this morning, Benedict XVI laid out his rationale before the church, stating, "After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry."

The Pope's announcement came as a shock to dioceses everywhere - after all, this will mark the first time in almost 600 years a living pope has relinquished his post.  Benedict XVI is the first pope to step down since 1415, when Gregory XII resigned to end the Western Schism.

"He has done that which is totally unexpected," says Bishop Patrick J. Zurek of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Amarillo.  "In modern times, it was expected that the Pope would remain in office until death, unless terribly incapacitated. He set a new chart. He made what seemed to be the impossible possible."

And while the church has expressed dismay at Benedict's departure, it has also expressed deep respect for his humility and self-sacrifice for the good of the church.

"It still is a surprise, but at the same time, I have to say this," says Bishop Zurek, "I know others have said it, but I think it will be the sentiment of all the bishops and cardinals in the church - I admire him for having, if you will, the courage to do that."

The next Papal Conclave is expected to select Benedict's successor by the end of March, if not sooner.

You can find the Pope's announcement in its entirety and some insight into the history and future of the Catholic church at the links attached to this story.

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