Indianapolis archbishop, Indiana Catholics react to Pope's resignation

Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin

Like more than a billion others around the world, local Catholics are wondering about the direction of their church after Pope Benedict XVI announced his plans to retire Monday.

Eyewitness News talked with Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph Tobin about what's next for the Catholic church and his personal relationship with the retiring pontiff.

"The phone rang and it was somebody calling from Rome," said Archbishop Joseph Tobin, speaking to reporters Monday.

Indianapolis Archbishop Tobin is likely one of the closet Americans to the outgoing Pope.

"He would not step away because things were uncertain or difficult," said Tobin.

As a former Vatican official, the archbishop worked in Rome until late November when he was appointed to lead the Indiana archdiocese.

The archbishop said he noticed a significant decline in Pope Benedict's health a year ago when he no longer could walk the down the aisle at St. Peter's Basilica.

"I saw a fellow in his mid-eighties who was finding it much more difficult to walk and to stand. He had great anxiety about falling," said Tobin.

"Pope Benedict's legacy is mixed. There will be several things he won't get to finish," Archbishop Tobin added.

The archbishop believes the new Pope will be younger, but will still maintain the conservative principals of the Catholic faith. He also tells Eyewitness News it might be time for the church to elect a "new face" for its one billion worldwide members.

The archbishop believes the decision on the next pontiff will "come fast." He also shared his thoughts on where the next Pope might come from.

"There are some interesting possibilities. There is talk that the next Pope will come from Latin America or Africa. And, knowing some of the candidates, there are very good men. I think it would surprise some to wake up one morning and have an African Pope," said Tobin.

Archbishop Tobin said he was shocked by the news that the pontiff would be stepping down, although given Pope Benedict's declining health, it's not a "complete surprise." 

The archbishop worked closely in Rome with the Pope until Tobin's appointment in Indianapolis last fall. He says the Pope had commented in the past that he didn't think it was a good idea for a Pope to serve once his health began to deteriorate.

Meanwhile, Tobin is inviting the archdiocese to pray for the Pope and his service.

Pope Benedict is the first pontiff to resign in 600 years, so the news came as a shock for many of the world's Catholics, including the 250,000 who live in central Indiana.

The homily at Monday's noon mass at Holy Rosary focused on the headline of the day.

For lifelong Catholic Elizabeth Grady, Pope Benedict's resignation caught her off guard, but she hopes the excitement around a new Pope brings more people to the Catholic faith.

"I just hope whoever takes this Pope's spot can bring in a lot of people into the church," said Grady.

Archbishop Tobin believes Pope Benedict will retire to a monastery and write.

How a new Pope is chosen

The cardinals will begin the process of picking a new Pope at the end of the month, and the new Pope will most likely be elected before Easter.

Choosing a new Pope consists of a complex sequence of events.

The Vatican first summons a conclave of cardinals. That must begin 15 to 20 days after Benedict's resignation.

All cardinals under age 80 are eligible to vote. They're sequestered within Vatican City, and they take an oath of secrecy.

Any baptized Roman Catholic male is eligible for election as Pope, but only cardinals have been selected since 1378.

Two ballots are held each morning, and two in the afternoon, in the Sistine Chapel. A two-thirds majority is required.

Ballots are burned after each round. Black smoke means no decision; white smoke signals that cardinals have chosen the Pope and he's accepted.

Bells also signal the election of a Pope to help avoid possible confusion over smoke color.

The new Pope is then introduced from the balcony overlooking Saint Peter's Square, where he imparts his first blessing.


When he became pope at age 78, Benedict XVI was already the oldest pontiff elected in nearly 300 years. He's now 85, and in recent years he has slowed down significantly, cutting back his foreign travel and limiting his audiences.
The Pope sometimes uses a cane. Late last year, people who were spending time with the pontiff emerged saying they found him weak and too tired to engage with what they were saying.
Benedict said his advanced age means he no longer has the necessary mental and physical strength to lead the world's more than one billion Roman Catholics.
That Benedict is tired would be a perfectly normal diagnosis for an 85-year-old pope, even someone with no known serious health problems and a still-agile mind.
He has acknowledged having suffered a hemorrhagic stroke in 1991 that temporarily affected his vision, but he later made a full recovery.  In 2009, the pope fell and suffered minor injuries when he broke one of his wrists while vacationing in the Alps.
A doctor familiar with the pope's medical team told The Associated Press on Monday that the pontiff has no grave or life-threatening illnesses. But, the doctor said, the pope - like many men his age - has suffered some prostrate problems. Beyond that, the pope is simply old and tired, the doctor said on condition of anonymity.
According to the pope's brother Georg Ratzinger, the pontiff was told by his doctor not to take any more trans-Atlantic trips. In fact, the pontiff's only foreign trip this year was scheduled to be a July visit to Brazil for the church's World Youth Day.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.