Local Catholics, including Bishop Edward Slattery, react to the Pope Benedict XVI's resignation

TULSA - Like Catholics around the world Monday, Tulsa's Catholic community and its leader, Bishop Edward Slattery, expressed surprise at the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.

The College of Cardinals -- totaling 120 at its max -- will meet to elect a new pope after resignation for the first time since 1415.

Rob Dutkosky, who attended the noon mass at Holy Family Cathedral in downtown Tulsa, called the pope's decision courageous.

"After stopping and thinking about it, I realized that it was a real decision of courage. You know, the Holy Spirit has always guided the Catholic Church, and I think it sure as heck was very much there in his decision to step down," he said on the steps of the cathedral.

Many parishioners, like Dutkosky, said their faith allowed them to trust in the pope's decision.

"I trust that the Holy Spirit is going to guide the cardinals to elect our next pope," said Elizabeth Beam, who also attended the afternoon mass.

Bishop Slattery, who most recently spent time with the pope in March 2012, said he will remember Benedict XVI for his warmth. Slattery remarked that wasn't always the case for the pope, who, as a cardinal, was viewed as tough and impersonal.

"Once he became pope, he became a person. Now you can see the man, and what you see is a very warm personal person in whose company you are very relaxed," he said.

The bishop said it is tough to determine what to make of the pope's surprising retirement. Slattery expects that once the pope steps down and his successor is named, he will be far from the public eye.

"What this will mean, I don't know. But I suspect that the Holy Father will simply become invisible, for the most part, and I don't think we're going to see a lot of him."

He said it's similar to when a bishop of a local diocese abdicates his position.

"When a bishop retires, he doesn't go into hiding, but he goes into semi-hiding. He has to recognize that he's not the bishop anymore of the diocese. He's still a bishop, but he's not the bishop of the diocese anymore," Slattery explained.

A two-thirds vote by the College of Cardinals will decide the next pope.

According to the diocese, there are 62,600 registered Catholics in Tulsa.

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