Gary Diocese’s Bishop remembers Pope as ‘one of the greatest intellectuals’
Bishop Dale J. Melczek from the Diocese of Gary remembers well his last visit with Pope Benedict XVI one year and a day before the Pontiff’s historic resignation announcement.
It was one of several meetings the Gary Bishop has had with the Pope since his papacy began. This particular meeting took place inside the papal apartment, a place where Benedict’s hospitality and humility left a lasting impression on the local religious leader.
“With the brilliant mind that he has, being the great theologian he is, the witness he gives is as someone who is really humble and who lives with inner joy and great simplicity and peace,” Melczek said. He described the Pope as a brilliant man who writes volumes each week including three books, encyclicals and near daily addresses and yet on that day his Holiness’ concerns centered on how things in Northwest Indiana were going and what the issues and challenges may be for the church here.
“He takes your hands and looks directly into your eyes with a lovely smile on his face and gives the impression you’re the only person in the world at the time. He’s an exceptionally good listener,” Melczek continued.
As the shock waves reverberate surrounding what is unprecedented in modern times settled in, the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI served to reaffirm Melczek’s belief in the greatness of the man.
“I think he’s one of the greatest intellectuals and theologians of our time. He’s also a man with an incredible passion to share God’s love with others. He’s a man of great courage. His resignation points to all of those things. He loves the church so much he knows his own limitations,” Melczek said.
The Rev. Martin Dobrzynski from St. Michael the Archangel Church in Schererville said the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, while shocking, will not significantly impact the local faithful other than curiosity.
“We will continue to pray for the Pope in the Eucharistic prayer,” Dobrzynski said, adding he expects a directive on how to proceed in regard to prayer once the resignation takes effect will follow.
“I think everybody just waiting to see what’s going to happen. I think there will be more reaction when a new Pope is elected,” Dobrzynski said.
Both local religious leaders say the acts of the man who will replace Pope Benedict XVI are more important than who the man is or even his country of origin.
Dobrzynski said he would like to see “somebody who certainly would be uncompromising in what we believe as Christians and Catholics.” Society and government do not set those matters for the church and it is important the core beliefs of the religion are protected in an environment where social policies often are being forced upon the faithful.
Melczek would like to see the new Pontiff, who will be one of 117 Cardinals currently eligible for election, continue in the path started by Pope John Paul II and carried on by Pope Benedict XVI in reaching out to young people and working to stem the tide of secularism that is prevalent in the U.S. and Europe.
“I think I would rather look to what are the qualities of the individual … for meeting the challenges in the church today,” Melczek said.
Until that decision is made, Melczek encourages the faithful to continue their prayers and trust in the Lord.
“My message would be pray and have confidence that the Holy Spirit will guide the College of Cardinals as they will gather to choose the successor to Pope Benedict,” the bishop said.