SCRANTON — Benedict XVI is no longer the pope.
Thursday, he waved as he took off in a helicopter, leaving the Vatican, which has been his home for the last eight years.
In Scranton, more than 4,000 miles away, Rev. Malcolm Cornwell is thinking of Benedict.
Rev. Cornwell is a passionist priest at Saint Ann’s Basicilica in the city.
He was in Rome two years ago and attended a ceremony then-Pope Benedict celebrated.
Rev. Cornwell also has a special blessing from the pope for the 50th anniversary of taking his vows.
Rev. Cornwell said like many in the Catholic church, he was surprised by Benedict’s decision to step down.
“I think as he passes and moves on into a retired position we are surprised by the move and yet it’s a wonderful example of his humility and his pastoral concern for the church,” he said.
Joseph Connor of Lackawanna Count has a special connection to the Pope Emeritus, as well.
His son is a theologian and priest and the two visited and met with Benedict two years ago.
“The Holy Father came down the line and shook hands with all of us, there was about 100 or some off people there in a private audience. It’s a wonderful memory to think that I knew this great man,” said Connor.
Connor also met Pope John Paul II and said Benedict is a quieter man, from a humble background.
“He is a very congenial, very honest man and I think it’s just part of his nature. He is just brilliant, beyond our conception of brilliance, I think. “
“Now in the wake of Benedict’s retirement, it becomes all the more precious and just as he has prayed for me, I will now pray for him,” said Rev. Cornwell.