News of Pope Benedict XVI'sresignation spread quickly early Monday morning. However, not everyone was totally surprised.
Bishop Gregory Hartmayer, Diocese of Savannah, saw the Pope just last week in Italy. He said there was no talk of retirement or resignation, but Hartmayer had a feeling change was coming.
"You could tell then, I said he doesn't have much longer. He was very tired and very old. Very deliberate. Very slow," Bishop Hartmayer said.
Hartmayer said the Pope used a cane at times and looked like he had lost 40 pounds over the last year.
"He walked, but he shuffled. And he waved and he spoke. His voice was very clear, his mind is clear. No questions about his mind. It's just there is too much to do. There's no way a man of 86 years old can do what he is doing. He's a world leader," Hartmayer said.
A unique and historic situation now presents itself as the Vatican prepares for a future with a new Pope installed while the soon-to-be retired Pope is still very much alive. Savannah has a similar situation. Bishop Kevin Boland retired and Bishop Gregory Hartmayer was ordained to lead the Diocese of Savannah.
Hartmayer tells me the two bishops worked out a working arrangement as Boland retired, but was still very active in the Catholic Church. They both expect the Pope to embrace retirement in silence, but as he thought about it, despite initial surprise, Boland says the decision made sense and was a favor to the church.
"The more I reflect on it the more grateful I am that he has done it because of his frailty of health. He says you need good body and a good mind to do the monumental task of leadership of the Pope," Boland told WTOC.
"He wants to retire in silence and in prayer. He'll probably do more writing, play more piano but probably spend a great deal of his time praying," Hartmayer said.
The initial reactions to the retirement of the Pope were much different.
"It's not surprising. In fact, it's a very charitable and intelligent move on his part," Hartmayer said. "It's a big job and no CEO at 86 is going to keep that schedule."
"I was absolutely surprised because we are not used to having Pope's resign. It hasn't happened in 500 years," Boland said.
Many will debate Pope Benedict's legacy, but Hartmayer, Boland and Bishop Robert Guglielmone of the Charleston Diocese agree on his lasting impact.
"I think one of his legacies will certainly be his writing and as a theologian," Guglielmone said. "He presents the gospel, I think, in a way that is more palatable and easier to read."
As the catholic church moves forward, over the last few years the Pope's travel schedule dwindled. Bishop Hartmayer won't speculate on a successor, but knows what he'd like to see in the form of a possible youth movement, establishing and installing a younger Pope to handle the rigors of the job.
"We need someone who has that kind of strength and enthusiasm and that kind of energy and vision that will travel because we need to see him and be excited by the presence of the Pope," Hartmayer said.
Pope Benedict XVI planned his pending resignation down to the day and time, setting 8 p.m. Feb. 28 as the time of his official retirement.