Youth gather to pray for Pope, recall his loving guidance

Young people from the Centro San Lorenzo walk into St Peters Square with the World Youth Day Cross to pray a rosary for the Pope Credit Antonello Anastasia CNA CNA 2 12 13 Young people from the Centro San Lorenzo walk into St. Peter's Square with the World Youth Day Cross to pray a rosary for the Pope. | Antonello Anastasia/CNA.

A group of young adults at the Vatican called Pope Benedict XVI's decision to resign "humble" and "brave," adding that they are "impressed by the strength of his choice."

"I have a lot of respect for his choice," said one member of the Vatican's youth group "San Lorenzo," which gathered to pray the rosary in St. Peter's Square for the Holy Father.

"We actually do this every day," said Cecile Delattre, a native of Paris. She explained that the group has responded to the pontiff's call for Catholics to pray a daily rosary during the Year of Faith.

"But today we prayed it more specifically for the Pope," she explained.

On Feb. 11, Pope Benedict announced that he would retire from his position on Feb. 28, due to his advanced age and declining strength.

Pointing to Blessed John Paul II's description of the cross as a "symbol of hope," Delattre emphasized that "we have nothing to fear because the Holy Spirit is guiding the whole thing."

At first, she said that she could not believe the news of the resignation, which came as a total surprise. But at the same time, she knew the decision was made "in truth with the Lord and in peace."

Throughout his pontificate, Delattre said, the Holy Father has addressed "subjects that spoke directly to young people" in a way that was "very brave and bold."

She speculated that the Pope "must have suffered" from those that did not understand him, but she added that many young people gave the pontiff their full support.

"I saw it during this last World Youth Day when thousands knelt with him before the Blessed Sacrament," she explained. "I felt they acknowledged that he was guiding us closer to Christ."

"We will remember him as someone really humble and really attached to everyone," she said.

Also with the San Lorenzo group to pray the rosary was a first-year theology student from the North American College in Rome.

"My first response, like that of everybody else, I'm sure, was of shock and surprise," said Luke Doyle, noting that this is the first papal resignation in six centuries.

"But after that, I felt profound gratitude for the gift that the Church has been given in the Holy Father," he continued.

"He's a great man and a tremendous leader for the Church, for others, and what a great gift to have had him and his mind to lead the Church," he reflected.

Another theology student described the mixed emptions of "sadness, but at the same time excitement."

"This happened 600 years ago, and we don't know exactly what happened then," said Sean Grismer of the North American College, who voiced enthusiasm over "the mystery of what is to happen now."

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"I think one of the greatest things is the great humility he has exemplified throughout his entire Papacy," he said.

Grismer recalled seeing Pope Benedict up close during Australia's World Youth Day in 2008.

"There was this sense of wonder and awe of this man who had taken on the responsibility of the entire Catholic Church and the entire world, and it was such a moving experience," he said.

"Then to be sent to Rome to study here and to be just in the shade of St. Peter's dome, to come to his Sunday Angelus and his Wednesday audiences has allowed me to see the profound humility he has," the student explained.

According to Grismer, the resignation is "nothing more than what he has already exemplified, saying he is not able to continue on as Pope, but your spiritual father if not your Holy Father."

"It has been a great blessing to be here and be part of his legacy to see him grow and continue to love us in this different way," he continued.

"He is a father and a teacher," the seminarian reflected, "and even though we may not understand fully now what this means, he is teaching us something great, not just about himself, but about the papacy."

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