Charlottetown Bishop Richard Grecco lauds Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to resign: an announcement made Monday that took Grecco and millions of others by surprise.
“I caught it on the news on TV this morning and I thought it must be a rumour,’’ Grecco told The Guardian.
“I was really surprised like everybody else.’’
Grecco believes the Pope did “a lot of soul searching’’ about his state of mind and health in reaching the decision to step down on Feb. 28.
“I really admire that,’’ he said.
“That is a conscientious decision.’’
The 85-year-old Pope blamed his age for preventing him from continuing at the head of the papacy, making him the first pontiff in nearly 600 years to resign.
"I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me,'' said the head of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.
Grecco met the Pope about six years ago. He had also met him on previous occasions when the man was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
The bishop’s personal impressions of the outgoing Pope are of a very gentle man who is extremely kind and very pastoral.
“Very concerned about the care of people, particularly the poor and the disadvantaged,’’ said Grecco.
The bishop found difficulty assessing the legacy of the Pope considering his short term of just under eight years that is a mere fraction of his predecessor, the long-reigning and popular John Paul II.
Still, Grecco says he is in “awe’’ with the amount of work achieved by a Pope who was elected at the age of 78.
“I tell you he has written three outstanding, wonderful books that show keen insight about human development in light of the gospel and our journey to God,’’ he said.
He also believes the Pope was successful in correcting a host of public relations problems that got him into hot water with Muslims, Jews, gays, native Indians, Poles, AIDS activists and even scientists.
Grecco is not anticipating any drastic change in philosophy with the successor of Benedict, who as Pope rejected the ordination of women and marriage for priests and also opposed homosexuality and communism.
“Well the next little while we will get swept up in the speculation wondering what that cardinal will be like (as Pope) and what that cardinal will be like,’’ he added.
“We need a man with a kind touch and a brilliant mind.’’