Archbishop of Washington ‘stunned’ by pope’s resignation

In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L\'Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict XVI delivers his message at the end of a meeting of Vatican cardinals, at the Vatican, Monday, Feb. 11, 2013. Benedict XVI announced Monday that he would resign Feb. 28 - the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years. The decision sets the stage for a conclave to elect a new pope before the end of March. (AP Photo/L\'Osservatore Romano, ho)

Colleen Kelleher, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to step down “just stunned” Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington.

“I was very, very much surprised,” Wuerl tells WTOP.

Wuerl says there was no indication last month when he saw the pope that the pontiff would resign.

Wuerl says he received a call from Rome about the pope’s resignation early Monday.

He says it appears the pope “in his heart, feels that he doesn’t have the strength to continue on.”

“I don’t think we should be surprised that when he reached this conclusion that he would have both the humility and the courage to take it, but it certainly came as a surprise,” Wuerl says.

The next step will be to determine a timeline for selecting the next pope.

Wuerl says a conclave, a gathering of cardinals under the age of 80, will convene to make the decision.

Wuerl says just being pope carries with it enormous responsibilities worldwide.

“The job itself is so huge,” he says.

With the scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church in recent years, WTOP asked Wuerl who would want the position.

“The Lord calls people to follow in his footsteps and somebody has to take that responsibility. It’s a challenge today,” he says.

“The higher up you get in the hierarchy, the heavier the burden is.”

Listen to Wuerl’s full interview with WTOP to the right.

Follow @WTOP on Twitter.


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