The pastor of a Catholic church in Odenton said he was surprised by Monday's resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, but also excited about the notion of the church entering a new chapter.
Father William Viola of St. Joseph Catholic Church praised Pope Benedict XVI for admitting that it was time for a new person to fill the role as leader of the Roman Catholic Church.
Benedict, 85, cited his advanced age and waning energy in announcing his decision. He is the first pontiff to resign his duties since 1415.
"Basically, he's a man of wisdom and he saw a need to do this," Viola said. "I give him credit for his wisdom in that he saw his limitations in exercising the role."
Benedict is expected to officially leave the role in March and the conclave of the church's cardinals will elect a new Pope. Many pundits have suggested the cardinals will select someone younger, or from a non-traditional area such as Africa or Latin America.
But Viola said it it was impossible to predict who the cardinals might select. He said there are often names that circulate, but that most people ultimately have no real insight.
"It's always somewhat of a mystery and a surprise, and that's kind of nice," he said. "We trust the Holy Spirit will guide the Cardinals in picking. It's exciting. It's really exciting to see where the church leaders will go."
Viola said that history will ultimately decide how Benedict will be remembered. But he said the resigning church leader brought stability at a time when the church was undergoing a series of challenges.
The scandal of sexual abuse remained a serious problem in the church, and Benedict was also forced to address allegations of corruption at the Vatican after his personal butler leaked a series of internal documents.
Benedict will be the first Pope in more than 600 years who will view his successor in action. Thus, Viola said it was hard to know what his role will be in retirement.
"I really can't foresee what will happen with that," Viola said. "He's been a man of humility … once a new Pope is chosen, he will be there, but the new Pope will be accepted as the leader."