SCRANTON — Many Catholics in our area are finding ways to say farewell to Pope Benedict XVI today.
Church leaders in the Diocese of Scranton dedicated their daily mass in Scranton to the pope.
St. Peter’s Cathedral was more crowded than usual for the daily 12:10 p.m. mass that was dedicated to the outgoing Pope Benedict XVI, the first pope in centuries to resign.
Another thing that was different about this mass: it was celebrated by Bishop Joseph Bambera. The leader of the Diocese of Scranton was selected by Pope Benedict, making the mass more emotional for the bishop and for the hundreds of parishioners who attended.
Bambera met Pope Benedict twice and spent a few hours with him the day Bambera became bishop. He never thought he’d say farewell to Pope Benedict this early and in this way.
“You develop an allegiance, and not only an allegiance but a relationship that is much, much bigger than I might be able to explain,” said the bishop.
Bishop Bambera broke from his normal routine to celebrate daily mass at St. Peter’s, on a day that’s not normal for the Roman Catholic Church.
“The great gift of this moment, though, is that we do have the opportunity to reflect upon how he has served the church and what a blessing he was to the Church.”
Peggy Bostwick wouldn’t normally travel the 30 miles from her home in Pocono Pines to Scranton for afternoon mass, but on this day, she felt she had to, to honor a man she feels did a great thing for the Catholic Church.
“I feel that it’s great that he can rest in this, and we’ll have someone else before the end of time here, before we get into Holy Week,” said Bostwick.
“I’m sorry to see him go, and that’s why I’m coming to this mass, because I want to have a celebration of his papacy,” said Mary Theresa Pitcavage of Thornhurst.
Of the parishioners we talked to, some left mass uncertain for the future of the church, others encouraged by what’s to come. Many of these Roman Catholics believe they’ll have a new pope by Easter.
“I’m encouraged, we’ve been in the same, I don’t want to say rut, but we need somebody with a little bit more pizzazz. We can’t have John Paul back, unfortunately,” added Bostwick.
“I came to honor our Pope Benedict. I think he did a very, very brave thing, knowing he couldn’t go on with his health, so I came to mass for him,” said Elaine Santarelli of Peckville.
While Pope Benedict’s departure is historic, he also made history as the first pope to use social media.
Pope Benedict sent his last tweet before noon saying, “Thank you for your love and support. May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the center of your lives.”