Salt Lake Catholic Bishop Wester notes 'bittersweet day' on final day of Pope Benedict XVI's reign

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 27 2013 6:25 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — The Most Rev. John C. Wester, bishop of the Salt Lake Diocese, reflected on what is a historic day in the Catholic Church.

“It’s a bittersweet day in the sense that we have to say goodbye to our Holy Father, but we’re happy for him that a lot of the stress will be off his shoulders,” Bishop Wester said.

Pope Benedict XVI gave his final address as pope Thursday, and it will likely be the last time he will be in the public eye. The 85-year-old pope has said he no longer has the strength and body to carry out his duties.

“He believes that the best way to serve the church now is through prayer and meditation and study,” Bishop Wester said.

He will be known as "pope emeritus" and will still wear the white cassock, but his trademark red shoes will be gone. His ring and seal, two very important symbols of the papacy and his ministry, will be destroyed.

“I think that he will be seen as a pope who worked very hard to unite, to unite the Catholic Church, to unite the world, that he’s a man of peace, that he spoke out strongly in favor of the virtue of love and hope," Bishop Wester said of his legacy.

“In this day and age when there is such a division, so many wars, and so many religious wars even, we see the different difficulties on the world stage now, that I think the pope will take his place among those other leaders, state leaders, religious leaders, civic leaders, who have tried hard to bring peace to our world.”

Bishop Wester said the new pope will have several challenges, including the diminished presence of the church in Europe and the growing presence in Africa, as well as helping the youths who are looking for the presence of the spiritual in their lives. 

E-mail: vvo-duc@ksl.com

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