By Erin Smith
Entirely East Lansing staff writer
Something that hasn’t happened for almost 600 years will happen on Feb. 28 — the pope will officially resign.
Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday that he was resigning in about two weeks. According to a local diocese director of communication, a Pope hasn’t resigned since the year 1415.
Michael Diebold, the director of communication for the diocese of Lansing said it was really unexpected for everyone, even people of the Catholic Church community in Lansing and East Lansing.
“My immediate reaction was shock and surprise,” Diebold said. “But there’s no mourning period, no funeral for the pope and it’s exciting in that regard.”
Diebold said the churches would now have to look to the bishop of Lansing for guidance in the absence of the pope.
“We (will have) more direct contact between the bishop than (the pope),” Diebold said.
RaeAnn Tourangeau, a parishioner at St. John Church and Student Center, 327 M.A.C. Ave., said she was interested in finding out what a new candidate could bring to her religion.
“Right now with abortion and birth control and Obamacare being passed, it could go either way,” she said. “People could wreak havoc since we have to find a new pope with all this stuff going on.
“It might be good because (the pope) was very strong in his ideas against abortion and birth control. It’s either (going to) be horrible or it’s (going to) be great.”
Psychology junior Chelsea Johnson saw Pope Benedict XVI last summer when she studied abroad in Rome.
“The Pope came out the window, spoke to the crowd — it was crazy how many people were there,” Johnson said. “He talked a lot in Italian. There was like one sentence in English — something about a mustard seed.”
She said it was a fantastic opportunity, but she didn’t really understand the hype and felt it was wrong of him to resign.
“My favorite thing, definitely the crowd,” Johnson said. “I feel like if this guy was chosen by God (that) it is a slap in the face to everyone (for him to retire.) Usually the pope is there for life — there’s no get out of jail free card.”
The pope was forced to retire due to a recent decline in his health, according to Diebold.
“He gave a pretty detailed address (Monday) in Rome,” Diebold said. “He doesn’t feel physically able to do what Jesus wants him to do as pope — he is feeling the effects of being elderly and had a number of travel restrictions.”
Tourangeau said she thought it was smart of the pope to step down, and she respects him for it.
“I don’t think that’s a dumb reason to step down,” she said. “People were saying he’s taking the easy way out — being the pope isn’t a walk in the park.”
She also said it is exciting that possibly a pope could be chosen from the U.S. — New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
According to CBC News, the day of the pope’s resignation, a lightning bolt hit St. Peter’s Basilica. Could it be a sign?
“With (Pope Benedict XVI) people found in the past it’s best to trust the Holy Spirit,” Diebold said. “(The Holy Spirit) is going to guide the cardinals to elect the new Holy Father.”