Area Catholics mark the retirement of Pope Benedict

Feb 28, 2013

As Pope Benedict XVI left the Vatican today for the last time as pope, some Catholics in central New York were taking note.  A mass of Thanksgiving at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in downtown Syracuse marked the end Pope Benedict's ministry.

This was more than a midday mass in Lent at the cathedral.  Bishop Robert Cunningham presided over the prayer of thanksgiving for the pope, who resigned earlier this month, citing his advanced age and health concerns.  Cunningham says he will be missed.

"We're sorry to see him go.  Sorry to be denied the joy really of listening to him speak..preaching and teaching.  We're happy that he now has his time for rest," said Cunningham.

Some parishioners attending mass said this shouldn't be a sad day, that the church should be thankful for Pope Benedict and look toward the future.

Cunningham said this could be an chance for a new energy in the church, which continues to see a slide in the number of Americans who call themselves Catholic.   

"It does always provide an opportunity when there's a change, when it isn't the ordinary time, the day--to-day activity of the church, there's always new enthusiasm. "

Mary Hallman, who attended the mass, believes a rejuvenated church could fill a need.

"I think people are hungry to come back to something that's good and life-giving and feeds their hearts and their spirits," she said.

This begins a time when the Catholic Church is in effect leaderless, as Catholics wait for a conclave to be held in Rome to select a new pope.

"The father of the family is not there now.  It's like the empty chair is there, and we're waiting for a time the empty chair will be filled again," said Cunningham.