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Bishop Leonard P. Blair of the Diocese of Toledo told reporters today that he and others are filled with "a sense of loss" following the announcement that Pope Benedict XVI will resign at the end of the month.
In an official statement, he said that he saw fulfillment of the pope as holy father in being “a great pastor and a great teacher of the faith.”
Bishop Blair said that “we do not begrudge him the repose he seeks for whatever time remains to him in this life. His resignation is itself a lesson in humility, courage and faith.”
The bishop prayed that there be spiritual guidance in the election of the next pope.
Bishop Blair said that it was via the Internet that he learned of the pope's resignation; he checks news on the Web during breakfast.
Bishop Blair had met with the pope at the Vatican a year ago along with other bishops from Ohio. “We had a very pleasant and very affirming visit,” the bishop said. “The Holy Father at the time was already showing his age, but it was not clear at that point what the future would hold.”
Speaking of what he'd like to see in a new pope, Bishop Blair said, “I think the answer would have always been the same in the last 2000 years, and that is ... a pope who is solid and strong in the faith, that is a fearless teacher of the faith and that is a wonderful, good pastor after the heart of Christ, somebody who can really not just know the faith and can teach it well, but can engage people and bring the mercy and the heart of Christ to people in the world today. It's not just about being a teacher, but being a pastor, a true shepherd.”
Bishop Blair said he believes a new pope will continue to attempt to heal the scandal of sexual abuse by priests in the Roman Catholic Church.
"I think Pope Benedict has always been very intent that this is a horrible evil that ought not to be tolerated and cannot be tolerated in the Church,” Bishop Blair said, “and he's taken the steps to discipline those situations and try to remedy it in the Church. I'm sure that his successor will do the same. This is a great tragedy and a great cross, obviously, for the victims but also for the Church as a whole.”
Asked whether he thinks Pope Benedict had done enough to prevent sexual abuse by priests from happening again, the bishop said, “Yes, I do.”