Western MA Catholics Ponder Pope’s Resignation

Officials from the Catholic Church  in Western Massachusetts say Pope Benedict’s decision to retire marks a new era for the papacy. Diocese of Springfield Bishop — Tim McDonnell — heard about the Pope’s retirement early this morning when his cell phone beeped with the announcement. He says the circumstance is unusual — but it’s also a testament to the Pope’s integrity. What’s more, he says, it’s a reflection of an increasingly rational Catholic community.

“When I was a newly ordained priest, bishops didn’t retire. Pastors didn’t retire. The line was you died with your boots on. But that often meant things didn’t happen.”

McDonnell adds he too plans to retire as soon as this year. And, like the Pope, he’ll shift his focus away from administrative tasks in favor of more ministry and prayer.

As for  the pope’s successor, president of the Sisters of Providence  in Holyoke —  Kathleen Popko — says she thinks there’s a chance that the next Pope will better represent the Paper City’s numerous Latino communities, which make up more than 40% of the city’s population.

“Many of the Catholics throughout the world are in the southern hemisphere. And I think that could cause some excitement and hope that there could be pope from Latin America.”

Popko says the Pope’s resignation on February 28th shouldn’t affect her community’s day-to-day religious work — which is providing hope and healing to those who need it. Officials with the Springfield Diocese say two cases in Western Massachusetts where parishioners have appealed to reverse the closure of Mater Dolorosa in Holyoke and St. Mary’s in Northampton — can proceed without a Pope in office.