The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI is a “historic moment in the life of the Church,” the leader of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown said Monday.
Bishop Mark L. Bartchak expressed surprise at the news that Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation.
“Pope Benedict served the church well by providing continuity in the tradition of the Catholic faith in its entirety,” Bartchak said in a written statement. “He is a person of deep spirituality, calling people into a closer relationship with Jesus Christ. He is also a person of great intellect and an excellent teacher.
“I would not be surprised if he will continue to reflect on and write about topics that are important to him even after he retires,” Bartchak said. “I am certainly grateful for his leadership in our church, and we continue to keep him in our prayers.”
Bartchak had the opportunity to meet Benedict on two occasions. His first contact came in September 2011 during a workshop for new bishops from around the world. They met again in December 2011 during an ad limina, a meeting to report on the state of the diocese, with the other bishops of Pennsylvania.
During each visit Bartchak said he found Pope Benedict to be very engaged, attentive and focused.
The bishop will celebrate a Mass at noon Feb. 28 at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Altoona.
The faithful will be invited to pray for Pope Benedict and the College of Cardinals, who will elect a new pope.
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