Youngstown bishop praises legacy of Pope Benedict

Bishop George Murry fields questions on church leadership at press conference.

BISHOP GEORGE V. MURRY OF THE DIOCESE of Youngstown expressed sadness Monday at the news that Pope Benedict XVI is resigning because of age and deteriorating health. His resignation takes effect Feb. 28.

The bishop described the 85-year-old pope as “a courageous voice for the rights of the poor, a consistent defender of human life and a champion of religious liberty for people of all faiths.”

During a press conference in the diocesan conference room, the bishop gave a statement and then fielded questions.

Bishop Murry offered ideas on qualities a potential pope should have in addition to a theological background. They are:

Ability to appreciate the needs of the church and respond to them; understanding of the communication revolution and skills to use modern technology; empathy with young people; and appreciation of the diversity of cultures within the church.

The new pope, the bishop said, also must be someone who will directly confront and deal with sexual abuse by clerics. “He must be willing to take concrete steps to eliminate the problem and help the victims.” When Pope Benedict visited Washington, D.C., and New York in 2008, he met with President George W. Bush, U.S. bishops and victims of abuse by clergy.

The bishop most recently saw the pope in February 2011 with a group of Ohio bishops. The pope saw a cardinal with an emergency, Bishop Murry said, then the Ohio bishops followed by another cardinal. The bishop said they could see the pope was getting fatigued.

Just before Bishop Murry came to the Youngstown diocese, he also had an audience with the pope in 2007. “We talked about the challenges here,” the bishop said.

Bishop Murry said he credited the pope with having the courage to acknowledge the toll that aging is having on him. “He is giving an example of how to deal with infirmity and suffering.” Though the pope has traveled extensively, his health is probably putting an end to trips.

In modern times, Pope Benedict’s decision to resign is unprecedented.

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