"Like the whole world, especially the leaders of our Roman Catholic Church, I was surprised, but not totally, by the sudden decision of Pope Benedict XVI to offer his resignation as Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. While it was rather sudden and not expected at this moment, I had suspected over the past year that one day soon Pope Benedict XVI, because of advancing age and health issues, would relinquish the Petrine ministry, as Pope, for our Catholic Church. I was with Pope Benedict XVI twice in the past year and a half, and I could see how difficult it was for him to carry out his universal ministry for the worldwide Church. In March 2012, along with the other Bishops of Texas, I spent several days in Rome and had the opportunity for a personal visit with Pope Benedict XVI, and we all could see that his strength was failing. During that visit, he gave me a special pectoral cross that I wear each day and treasure immensely.
"Pope Benedict XVI, as he has indicated in his statement of resignation, does this for what he considers to be the best for our Catholic Church at this time. I know this is a very difficult decision for him, as he wants to continue a very demanding ministry, unlike that of any other office in the world.
"Pope Benedict XVI, who accepted the election of the Cardinals to head the Papacy already at an age when he could have retired, gave his entire heart and strength as long as he could to lead our Catholic Church during the past eight years.
"Pope Benedict XVI 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 that 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.
"While elected at an age past retirement, Pope Benedict XVI, as a newly-elected Pope, set out to meet his people -and they were of all faiths - all over the world. He visited the religiously threatened - Jews, Muslims and Christians in the war-torn Middle East, the desperately poor in Africa, and the world's youth gathered to meet him in Australia, Germany, and Spain. I was with him at two of those huge World Youth gatherings--in Australia and in Spain.
"He delighted our beloved United States of America when he visited Washington and New York in 2008. I had the privilege of being with him during that visit to Washington, and especially when he visited the White House when he and President Bush together addressed thousands of people on the South Lawn of the White House.
"As a spiritual leader he led the Catholic community in prayer at Nationals Park, Yankee Stadium, and St. Patrick's Cathedral. He spoke for the world's poor when he visited them and wrote of equality among nations in his peace messages and encyclicals.
"I thank God that I had the privilege as a Bishop of the Roman Catholic Church to serve God's people under his leadership, and I recall my visits with him even before he became Pope Benedict XVI, when he was known as Cardinal Ratzinger. As he lives out this surely hard-made decision, but what he considers to be the will of God and the best for the Church he has guided, I thank him for his outstanding, gracious, and enlightened leadership that he has provided for the Catholic Church and the whole world. As I have done every day, I will continue to pray for him, and invite all of our people to pray for him.
"This is a unique moment in the life of the Catholic Church, as we have not experienced a change in the Papacy through resignation, but rather those that have come about because of the death of a Pope in office. I invite all of our people during this time of transition, and as we prepare for the conclave of Cardinals to elect a new Pope, to more than ever pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. May Jesus, who is the main Shepherd of our Church and all of us, continue to guide us, and may His precious Mother, Mary, continue to intercede for us."
-- Most Rev. Michael D. Pfeifer, Bishop of San Angelo