Richmond learns of Pope’s retirement
“You have to be kidding. It can’t be true! You are joking with me! You are pranking me! It can not be true!”
As he was leaving for morning mass last Monday, while on vacation in Fort Myers, Fla., the Rev. Troy Richmond learned from his host that Pope Benedict II had announced that he plans to retire at the end of the month. Richmond said that traditionally when someone is named pope, they hold the office until death. It marks the first time in over 600 years a pope has retired from the papacy.
“I think his retirement caught the whole world off guard,” Richmond said.
He said the pope is considered the representative of Christ on Earth. The Gospel of Matthew describes St. Peter being the first pope, as Jesus named him to build his church. The title later evolved as the church grew. The pope is also known as the “Holy Father,” because he is the shepherd of the faithful throughout the world.
Richmond said Pope Benedict was set apart because he was an eloquent teacher. Benedict has written volumes of books. He says that Benedict has decided to resign because he doesn’t feel he is physically able to carry out the physical demands of the position.
“He did so I’m sure after a great deal of prayer and I’m sure it was a difficult decision for him to have to make,” Richmond said. “I’m sure he did so under the influence of the Holy Spirit and he did so for the right reason and at the right time.”
Richmond says 20 days after Benedict steps down, a conclave — which is a election council made up of cardinals from throughout the world — will meet in the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City. The cardinals will cast ballots for who the next pope will be. To be named pope, a candidate must receive two-thirds plus one of the votes.
“While the election is in process, if the ballots are cast and there is no election, the ballots are burned and a chemical is placed with the ballots to make the smoke coming from St. Peter’s black,” Richmond said. “Once the election is favorable, and there is a new pope elected, the white smoke comes from St. Peter’s, telling the world we have a new pope.”
Richmond said that he is a member of the John Paul II generation. He remembers seeing “blessed John Paul” die a beautiful, peaceful and dignified death. Richmond believed John Paul II is an icon of Christ.
As a seminarian, Richmond had the opportunity to attend a private mass with John Paul II. At the end of a pilgrimage to Turkey and Greece, Richmond also spent a month in Rome. During the last week, the group was called to Pope John Paul II’s private chapel for the private Mass. Each had an opportunity to kiss his ring and receive his blessing.
“I knew I was kneeling down before the most holy man in the world,” Richmond said. “I knew I was in the presence of a living saint.”
He said the experience was an affirmation to the vocation of priesthood. He said there are no words to describe the experience.