Bellingham

Pope's resignation stuns local Catholics

Pope's resignation stuns local Catholics
SEATTLE -- The shocking news of Pope Benedict's resignation caught Seattle's entire Catholic Archdiocese and its parishioners off guard.

On Monday morning, the Pope dropped the bombshell that he was stepping down during a regularly scheduled meeting.

That news spread like wildfire throughout the world. In Seattle, Catholics were stunned, including Archbishop Peter Sartain. Like millions of others, Sartain learned of the Pope's resignation while watching morning television.

"This is a surprise to us all," he said. "None us were given advance notice."

Not even the Pope's closest collaborators knew the bombshell was coming. In a hurried news conference, Sartain shared mixed feelings over the abrupt departure.

"It was a surprise and we're sad because the Holy Father has served us so beautifully, but at the same time with profound respect for the fact that he made this decision and it was the right thing for him to do," he said.

Since his 2005 election, Pope Benedict has charted a conservative course. Officials from the Seattle Catholic Archdiocese say they will remember Pope Benedict as a humble, faithful servant, as well as a caring pastor and brilliant theologian.

Many of the Pope's efforts were overshadowed by scandals, including sexual abuse at the hands of priests.

"He dealt with them in a very straightforward way," Sartain said. "I think he has felt the weight of the burden of the sadness the scandals have caused through the years."

Pope Benedict made a life-long impression on 12-year-old Jake Finkbonner, who didn't know what to make of his hero's resignation.

"It was kind of sudden, I guess. I wasn't really ready for any of this," Finkbonner said.

Finkbonner met the Pope at the Vatican in October when he canonized Saint Kateri. Finkbonner and his mother, Elsa, said the boy was cured of his flesh-eating bacteria after praying to the saint.

During their trip, the Finkbonners did notice the pope's failing health.

"We thought, wow, we were surprised to see and hear how frail he was," Elsa said.

At his Catholic school in Bellingham, Finkbonner has some homework for the outgoing Pope.

"I would certainly hope he would still stay connected to God, and that there is no doubt he'd do daily prayers," he said.

Elsa said based on how frail the Pope was last fall, she really isn't surprised he is stepping down for health reasons.