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Archbishop Jerome Listecki weighs in on papal resignation

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The Archdiocese of Milwaukee on Monday, February 11th joined the world in expressing joy, sadness, and hope for the future after hearing of the impending retirement of Pope Benedict XVI. FOX6's Mike Lowe spoke with Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki about the future of the Catholic Church.

It's fair to say Pope Benedict's resignation stunned the Catholic community in Milwaukee and surprised Archbishop Listecki.

Archbishop Listecki: "My reaction was surprised, but not shocked.  If you listen to Pope Benedict over the years, ever since he became Pope, you heard him constantly say, 'well, maybe if there's a time I couldn't fulfill my duties, I would resign.' People would of course respond, 'oh yeah, sure, sure, sure Your Holiness,' but actually I think this is a courageous decision on his part."

Mike Lowe: "He is the first Pope is six centuries to do so."

Archbishop Listecki: "Yeah, but you've got to realize that in the Catholic Church, six centuries, that's like a weekend, so you're talking about the existence of the church for over 2,000 years .  As they say, in the church, things go relatively slowly."

Mike Lowe: "What are the qualities that Catholics should be looking for in the next pope?"

Archbishop Listecki: "The qualities that one has to look for is -- first and foremost -- holiness.  What you want in your leader is someone who manifests a sense of understanding of God's presence in the world, a commitment to Jesus Christ and an openness to be led by the spirit."

Mike Lowe: "You told me once that if you could write the inscription on your tombstone, you would want it to say, 'he led them to holiness.'"

Archbishop Listecki: "You got it. You remembered that, that's exactly it!"

Mike Lowe: "I'll give you a chance to write the epitaph of Pope Benedict.  What do you think his legacy is, what should that say?"

Archbishop Listecki: "Faith seeking understanding.  Fides quaerens intellectum. Faith seeking understanding.  This was a man of deep faith, who used his knowledge and his ability and his spiritual sense to help people come to understand the church."

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Pope Benedict XVI has ardent supporters in Milwaukee, but his legacy in the city is complicated by his role in the notorious case of Father Lawrence Murphy.

Murphy is the Milwaukee priest who confessed to sexually abusing dozens of boys over decades.

At the time, Pope Benedict XVI was the Cardinal in charge of discipline, and has been criticized for not responding more forcefully.

Archbishop Listecki: "He certainly did respond to that issue and he dis so boldly. I remember."

Mike Lowe: "He apologized to the victims."

Archbishop Listecki: "He apologized and I remember in Washington, he met with victims in the United States.  So that was -- if you want -- an unprecedented movement on his part, but a very pastoral movement."

Mike Lowe: "Some are looking at this transition as a way to usher the church towards a more modern state, the last time Catholicism has really gotten together in a world-wide forum was the second Vatican Council in the 1960s.  Do you see this as an opportunity for the church to change positions on issues that may have alienated some Catholics?"

Archbishop Listecki: "You have to ask me where the alienated Catholics -- I'm not meeting the alienated Catholics."

Mike Lowe: "For example, some younger people might view the Church's stance on homosexuality as being at odds with what they see in their own experiences, or maybe the ordination of women, or stem cell research, those kinds of things."

Archbishop Listecki: "Stem cell research, if you're talking embryonic, that's human life.  The church is not going to change its position on human life.  Take a look in terms of human sexuality, the aspect of human sexuality has been a part of the church always.  Take a look in terms of the aspect of women's ordination.  Two Pope's have already declared that the priesthood is only open to males because of the relationship to Jesus Christ. Those are teachings that are fairly well founded."

As for Cardinal (and former Milwaukee Archbishop) Timothy Dolan's chances of being a potential successor, Archbishop Listecki said not to count out the possibility, but also cited the Las Vegas odds are 25-1.

Archbishop Jerome Listecki released the following statement following Monday's announcement:

"I have feelings of both great joy and great sadness as I learn of the Holy Father's resignation announcement today, effective February 28, 2013.

Joy, because he will have the opportunity to enjoy some personal time in his golden years. Sadness, because we will miss his holy, evangelical work.

Pope Benedict XVI is a true servant of Jesus Christ, a phenomenal leader, and his inspiration reaches across multiple generations. I am proud to know him and that I have had the opportunity to serve Christ's people with him. god Bless him in his days ahead. Le us all pray for the member ship of the College of Cardinals as they Holy Spirit guides them as they are involved with the process of selecting Pope Benedict's successor."

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