Bishop Peter Jugis, who heads the 46-county Catholic Diocese of Charlotte, cast Pope Benedict XVI on Monday as a great shepherd whose legacy was bringing Jesus to a world that seems to have forgotten him.
Speaking during a mid-day Mass that attracted about 85 worshipers at St. Patrick Cathedral in Dilworth, Jugis said he spoke for many Roman Catholics who were saddened by the stunning news that Pope Benedict XVI will resign Feb. 28 due to health problems.
Still, Jugis said during a later news conference, there was no need for fear or anxiety about the coming transition in the 2,000 year old church.
The College of Cardinals, guided by the Holy Spirit, will soon meet, the bishop said, and in a prayerful spirit . . . elect a new shepherd for the church.
Asked whether it was time for a pope from Africa or Latin America the greatest areas of growth for Catholicism Jugis proposed an American cardinal instead.
Wouldnt it be great if there were a Pope Timothy Cardinal Dolan? Jugis said, referring to the outgoing conservative archbishop of New York.
News of the Popes historic decision the first papal resignation in more than six centuries caught a number of people off-guard.
Some Catholics learned of the decision when they arrived for morning Mass at churches around the Charlotte region.
At St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in south Charlotte, about 60 worshippers at the 9 a.m. Mass prayed that God may bless (Pope Benedict) and reward him for his service, in the words of the Rev. Joshua Voitus, who celebrated the Mass.
Two of the worshippers had different views of the pope -- and of what they want in the next pontiff.
I thought he was an extremely conservative pope, and I kind of looked askance at his attempts to reverse ... (the liberal reforms) of the Second Vatican Council, said Robert Budka, 74, of Charlotte. Id like someone with a more ecumenical spirit.
And, Budka added, it may be time for a pope from Africa or South America since theres so many new Catholics in both places.
But Patricia Hartung, a 59-year-old homemaker from Charlotte, said she wanted another conservative pope like Benedict and his predecessor, John Paul II.
I like the fact that he (Benedict) brought back the Latin mass, Hartung said. I absolutely love the reverence and the sense of true worship that comes with the ritual, she said.
When it comes to a successor, she said her hope was for not a liberal pope. We want (the next pope) to carry on in Benedicts tradition.
St. John Neumann Catholic Church in east Charlotte posted this message on its Facebook page: Please pray for our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, on his historic decision to resign, fittingly on the World Day of the Sick and the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Bishop Jugis, who spent several years in the Vatican while earning a degree a canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University, was part of a group of U.S. bishops that had an audience with Pope Benedict XVI last year. According to the diocese, Charlottes bishop talked to the pontiff in May about the state of the diocese in Charlotte.