.- American Catholic political officials and commentators have solemnly expressed their appreciation and prayers for Pope Benedict XVI as his resignation goes into effect.
“The United States sends its best wishes to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI as he leaves the Vatican after years of service and dedication to God, the Catholic Church, and world peace,” said newly-instated U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
In a statement released on the eve of the Holy Father’s retirement, Kerry added that he anticipates further cooperation with the Holy See.
“As the papal conclave assembles, I look forward to continuing our important relationship with the Vatican and working with the new pope to foster dialogue and promote human rights and human dignity throughout the world,” he said.
“On this day, I keep Pope Benedict in my prayers and wish him well as he enters into retirement.”
On Feb. 28, at 8 p.m. in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI stepped down from the papacy. He had announced his intended resignation on Feb. 11, citing his advanced age and declining strength.
The Chair of Peter will be vacant until the cardinals elect a new pope in a gathering set to begin in early March.
Former ambassador Johnny Young, who currently serves as executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Department of Migration and Refugee Services, also commented on the Pope’s retirement.
From the beginning of his papacy, Young said in a Feb. 28 post on the U.S bishops’ blog, “Pope Benedict XVI has called on the church and the world to do what the bible has commanded for over two millennia, to welcome the stranger.”
“What has mattered most in this outreach,” he added of the Pope’s legacy, “has been the consistency, resolve, clarity and unwavering moral authority with which the Pope has spoken out on this issue through statements, speeches and private audiences.”
“He continually reminds his followers and the world to give dignity and respect” in welcoming strangers in their midst, Young said.
The former ambassador added that these words “have been helpful in supporting the work done by the Church in so many ways,” particularly because “his pronouncements on them have been clear, consistent and inspirational.”
“His continued leadership on this is needed and will not be forgotten.”
Public advocacy group the Catholic Association also released a Feb. 28 statement expressing gratitude for the former pontiff's service.
Maureen Ferguson, senior policy advisor for the organization, thanked Pope Benedict XVI for leading the church with “great love and courage,” adding that it is “with the same love and courage” that the Pontiff now “steps down from the Church's highest office.”
“Thank you Holy Father, and our prayers are with you,” Ferguson concluded.