Catholics In Harrisburg Diocese React To Pope’s Resignation

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NORTHUMBERLAND COUNTY -- At our Lady of Lourdes Regional school near Shamokin, it was a night of boys’ basketball, as the school faced off against Mount Carmel.

However for many at the Roman Catholic School in the Diocese of Harrisburg, their minds were on the surprise announcement made by Pope Benedict IXV at the Vatican in Rome.

The 85-year old said he was stepping down as Pontiff; the last time a pope resigned was in 1415.

“I was dismayed and somewhat shocked, it’s truly a revelation, it hasn’t happened, 600 years ago was the last time,” said Steven Lapotsky, the coach for Mount Carmel.

“I was surprised because it hasn’t happened on over 600 years that the pope just resigns,” said Ben Scicchitano, a Lourdes junior.

Citing his failing health and advanced age, Benedict said he was no longer able to fulfill his duties as leader of the Roman Catholic Church and the some 1 billion faithful around the world.

“I guess I kind of admire his decision because if he felt that at his age, he wasn’t able to really live up to all of the standards and be able to make all the decisions he should be,” said Sheila Olsheskie, who does volunteer work for Lourdes’ Athletic Department.

Some felt the criticism Benedict took over the church’s sex abuse scandal took a toll.

Others felt he had hard shoes to fill, as his predecessor was the beloved Pope John Paul II.

“He had a very, very difficult task to follow Pope John Paul the Second,” said Tom Ayan, the game’s announcer. “He will be certainly a saint very shortly and a tough act to follow but when you consider all the circumstances I think he did a fine job.”

For the faithful they now are eager to see who will be the new shepherd of the church.

“The church is growing rapidly in Africa and South America, declining in Europe and the United States, which way the Cardinals of the College are going to go,” said Ayan.