As the world reacted to the unexpected news that Pope Benedict XVI would become the first pope in six centuries to resign, evangelicals acknowledged major theological differences while citing Benedict's commitment to human dignity as a key part of his legacy.
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Benedict, 85, announced Monday (Feb. 11) that because of his advanced age and infirmity, he will vacate his position as spiritual leader of the world's 1 billion Roman Catholics at the end of the month. He has been pope since 2005.
"Strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me," Benedict said, adding that he is "well aware of the seriousness of this act."
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville Ky., said Benedict "has offered a brave and intelligent defense of truth against a relativist tide, and he has been a stalwart friend of life."
Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, located in a heavily Catholic region, told Baptist Press that Benedict "is a man worthy of our respect and appreciation."
"Although there are profound differences in Baptist and Catholic perspectives on faith, we shared a commitment to the sanctity of life and other biblical values," Kelley said of Benedict.
Daniel Sanchez, associate dean of the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, said this is a time to pray for Catholics.
"The news of the resignation of the pope is undoubtedly creating concern and confusion in the minds of many sincere and devoted Roman Catholics," Sanchez told Baptist Press. "While it is true that the Roman Catholic Church has a recognized process for the election of a successor to the current pope, it is also true that this is a time of transition for the church and its adherents."
Sanchez added, "In a time of transition and uncertainty, it is important that we remind ourselves and our Roman Catholic friends that Jesus, through the person of the Holy Spirit, is always with us and never leaves us. It is also important to emphasize the fact that it is through a personal experience of salvation in Jesus Christ that we can have the assurance of His presence with us and the hope of being with Him when we die."
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SOURCE: Baptist Press