EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) – On Ash Wednesday, Catholics all across the world took time to repent and reflect on life, including St. James the Greater Catholic Church in Eau Claire.
Wednesday was also Pope Benedict XVI’s final public mass and his last Ash Wednesday as Pope. As congregations gathered for mass for the first time since Monday’s announcement, people took time to also reflect on his resignation.
“It’s a time to renew our baptismal promises at Easter. The ash represents the fact that we all know at sometime, we're all going to die and ashes to ashes and it’s our mortality and ultimate dependence on God,” said Father John Schultz.
Father Schultz said the Pope’s resignation also set a different tone at mass.
“Certainly gives a different emotion tonight. People are still talking about being surprised,” said Father Schultz.
“I thought I was dreaming because I heard it on the radio first thing in the morning but the other thing is I wasn't too surprised because I know his decision is very from the holy spirit and I trust his decision,” said Grace Wilgus who attended the Wednesday mass.
Gabrial Moore said the Pope’s resignation is a historic event.
“I was really shocked because it hasn't happened since the 1400s,” said Moore.
But it’s a move most Catholics seem to be okay with.
“The reality is that most people think it was a very good move on his part to admit that he's not well physically as he used to be. It certainly does give some emotion and will to this lent season,” said Father Schultz.
Denise Finstad who was also at the Ash Wednesday mass said the Pope is showing he is selfless and is making a statement that it’s okay to resign when you’re physically unable to.
“Changing times,” said Finstad. “I realize, we are the oldest traditional religion but I think it’s nice to see we as a religion can also change with the times, it’s kind of nice.”
Many say Pope Benedict will be missed, but one thing they’ve learned from his retirement announcement is that the Catholic community is a strong one and will be okay despite changes.
Pope Benedict XVI will officially retire on February 28th.