In response to Monday's announcement that Pope Benedict XVI would resign at the end of February, Msgr. John A. Radano, of Seton Hall University's School of Theology made a statement expressing both surprise and gratitude:
Pope Benedict XVI’s Resignation: an initial reaction
The news of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation came as a surprise. The first reaction to this announcement is to express a word of deep gratitude to the Holy Father for his eight years of service to the Catholic Church as Bishop of Rome. He brought to that work his great expertise as a theologian, his deep concern for the pastoral needs of people, and a sense of ecumenical responsibility for seeking the unity of divided Christians, and building bridges of understanding between peoples of different religions.
A young professor of theology at the time of the Second Vatican Council, he offered his great learning as an expert to the gathered bishops as they sought to renew and strengthen the church. His academic service and publications afterwards helped serve the interpretation and implementation of the Council’s decisions. Not long after being appointed by Pope Paul VI as Archbishop of Munich in 1977, and later Cardinal, he was invited by Pope John Paul II in 1981 to serve as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, one of the most demanding and vital positions in the Roman Curia. The issues faced during his tenure in that office made it often controversial. Not surprisingly, some of the Congregation’s decisions were seen as controversial as well. In 2005, Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Bishop of Rome.
His contributions to the Church, both before and after becoming Pope, are too many to cover in a brief statement such as this. One of his great contributions in the field of ecumenism were the steps he took, when Prefect of the CDF, to help see to the finalization and official signing, in 1999, by the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation, of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. This historic Declaration, the result of decades of dialogue between Lutherans and Catholics, showed that they now share agreement on basic truths of this doctrine which, in the sixteenth century, was the central theological issue in the conflict and break between Luther and the authorities of the Catholic Church. During his papacy, Benedict XVI has continued to mention this achievement over the years.