In a surprise move, the spiritual leader of the Catholic Church around the world has announced his resignation.
Pope Benedict XVI will step down at the end of this month.
The 85-year-old pontiff says age has robbed him of the strength of body and mind that are needed to lead the church.
He was elected pope in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II.
Less than a year into Benedict’s papacy, he appointed Alexander Sample as Marquette’s bishop.
The newly-appointed Archbishop of Portland, Oregon has met the pope several times.
He says Pope Benedict’s announcement stunned him, and the news made him sad.
But he says the church belongs to Christ, not to Benedict or John Paul II, and he says he’s confident Christ will raise up a new pastor according to His own heart.
Archbishop Sample himself is leaving the U.P. in about six weeks for his new position in Portland.
That raises the issue of whether or not the pope’s resignation will affect the selection process for a new Bishop of Marquette.
Archbishop Sample says while it may have some impact, he doesn’t believe it will.
He says Vatican officials are expecting to call a conclave and elect a new pope by mid-to-late-March, and the work of the Congregation for Bishops, which handles the search process for new bishops, will continue during the transition.
Benedict XVI is the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years, and he’s the first pope to resign voluntarily since 1294.