Detroit Catholics surprised by pope’s resignation

DETROIT — Early morning mass attendees at Divine Child Catholic Church in Dearborn expressed disbelief after learning of Pope Benedict XVI’s plan to resign at month’s end.

“No way. Oh my goodness,” exclaimed Joy Siedlik, 57, an office manager from Livonia as she exited the

6:30 a.m. service. “You just shocked me.”

“I’m just wondering what’s going to happen in the Catholic Church,” said Siedlik. “I hope we find another pope as spiritual as he has been.”

The 85-year-old pope, who became pontiff in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II, said Monday morning that health concerns prompted his historic decision. Historians said it was the first time in nearly 600 years that a leader of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church has resigned as pope.

John Pierce, 59, a Dearborn retiree, was stunned.

“I don’t know what I have ever heard about a pope resigning,” said Pierce, after the morning Mass. “I guess for the good of the church, it’s something he must do.”

Kathy Heimiller, 53, a clerk from Livonia, imagined out loud the weight of the pope’s workload and concerns.

“Really? That’s too bad,” said Heimiller. “I can understand it being a burden on the pope because of all the problems they face.”

The leader of 1.3 million Roman Catholics in southeast Michigan said that he too was surprised by the announcement.

Archbishop Allen Vigneron said in a statement Monday that surprise was followed by “sadness, a sense of grief at losing his fatherly care for all us.”

The leader of the Archdiocese of Detroit invited Catholics to pray for the pope and “guide him through what lies ahead.”

Vigneron said “we look to the future with confidence, that the Lord who has given us this great pope and loving father, will give us a new shepherd of equal merit.”

Benedict’s successor will be chosen by a conclave of the church’s cardinals.