This morning, February 11, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, our Holy Father Pope Benedict announced the canonization of new saints. At the close of that meeting with the members of the College of Cardinals in the Vatican, he took a second piece of paper and made a further announcement that, after much prayer and reflection, he had decided to step down as the Universal Pastor of the Catholic Church effective February 28. He then asked the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano to say a few words. The Dean described this moment as a “thunderbolt in a serene sky.”

The Holy Father remains the Pope and Universal Pastor through February 28. At a time to be determined by the Dean of the College, Cardinal Sodano with the Camerlengo, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the date for the conclave to elect a new pope will be set. After February 28 until a new Pope is elected, the Church will be governed by the College of Cardinals meeting daily in General Congregations.

At this time I ask all the faithful, consecrated men and women, deacons, priests and bishops of this diocese to join me in prayer for this extraordinary Pontiff, a holy and wise man who with great sacrifice gave himself totally to the Church which has benefited mightily from his many human gifts of intelligence and wisdom and even more from his spiritual gifts of faith and hope and love as he taught, governed and prayed for the Church showing us always the face of God who is love.