The Rev. Kevin C. Rhoades this morning urged Roman Catholics in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend to pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as the church begins the process of choosing a new pope.
Still mourning the death of their former bishop, the Rev. John M. D'Arcy, whose funeral was Friday, local Catholics woke up Monday to news of another kind of loss – that Pope Benedict XVI would resign at the end of the month because of failing health and advanced age.
"I think the (immediate) effect on our people was one of surprise. I was very surprised," said Rhoades, after an 11:30 a.m. news conference.
"But the faith of our people is strong," he said. "I think there is always hope, the strong hope we have of the Holy Spirit's guidance, especially in times like this."
While Benedict is the first pope to resign the office in 600 years, Rhoades said the move is "not unprecedented."
He stressed that the church has had many, many leadership changes in the last 2,000 years.
"The church continues, and the church is always alive," he said.