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Pearl River Priest: Pope Led Church Through Difficult Years

St. Margaret Church Pastor Monsignor John O'Keefe reacted to the news that Pope Benedict XVI will resign effective Feb. 28.

Pope Benedict XVI surprised many in and outside the Catholic Church by announcing he is stepping down Feb. 28 due to "advanced age."

Monsignor John O'Keefe, Pastor at St. Margaret Church in Pearl River, said there had been talk of the resignation because the Pope is 85. 

"There was always talk he was going to resign because of age," O'Keefe said. "There were tell tale signs, the way he was walking and speaking. He had all of these special mobile units to transfer him from plade to place so he wouldn't have to walk."

Pope Benedict is the first Pope to resign since Gregory XII in 1415. 

"He has the right to do it," O'Keefe said. "He was a great theologian of the Church. He led the Church through some very, very difficult years. People admire him and feel good about him.

"The next one is going to have a job. They better pick a younger one."

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a statement Monday morning: 

"The Holy Father brought the tender heart of a pastor, the incisive mind of a scholar and the confidence of a soul united with His God in all he did. His resignation is but another sign of his great care for the Church. We are sad that he will be resigning but grateful for his eight years of selfless leadership as successor of St. Peter."

Pope Benedict was 78 when he was elected in 2005. Dolan will be among the Cardinals who meet to choose the next Pope.

Isabelle Fenton, Church secretary at St. John's Catholic Church in Piermont, had similar thoughts on the resignation.

"We all feel very sad about it because he's an amazing and intellectual holy man. We had noticed that his health has been deteriorating visibly and while his mind is all there, it’s a tremendous job that he has to carry out at his age," she said.

Nanuet resident and former St. Anthony's student, Barbara Chuck was very shocked at the news. 

"I’m so surprised. That's almost unheard of. I've never heard of (a Pope resigning) before. He's been traveling a lot, He was just in the Middle East. I did not think that would happen,” she said, adding that she’s surprised to hear the news, but not surprised, after some thought, because of the Pope’s age. Barbara Chuck is a past president of the Nanuet Lions Club, a volunteer organization. “It's like our members. We have one person that is 81; they're no longer an active Lion, just a volunteer now.”

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