NCC commends Pope Benedict
for a 'wise and graceful exit'
York, February 12, 2013 – The President of the National Council of Churches
USA commended Pope Benedict XVI Tuesday for a “wise and graceful exit that
shows enormous courage and a deep commitment to the ongoing effectiveness of
NCC President Kathryn Lohre expressed gratitude for the
Pope's long ministry as pontiff, cardinal, university professor, and priest.
Lohre noted the pope’s decision to step down February
28 after eight years as head of the world’s largest Christian church had
“stunned the world, certainly including the 40 million persons who relate to
the 37 member communions of the National Council of Churches.”
No pope has voluntarily abdicated his office since 1415, and that was in the
midst of a bitter conflict involving three competing pontiffs.
Benedict’s retirement is virtually unprecedented,” Lohre said. “This is an
historic moment that alters expectations for sacrificial leadership in all
communions. He is
bravely facing up to the realities we all confront: the fragility of the
human body and the inevitability of the time when we can no longer shoulder
the burdens placed upon us.”
Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, NCC Associate General Secretary, Faith & Order and
Interfaith Relations, praised Benedict as scholar, writer, and teacher. “He
communicates the essential teachings of the Catholic Church with clarity and
precision,” Kireopoulos said. “There are no precedents for the role of an
ex-pope. Perhaps his unexpected retirement will give him a chance to write
more, or teach.”
The Roman Catholic Church is not a member of either the National Council of
Churches USA or the World Council of Churches, Kireopoulos noted. “Catholics
serve on commissions and committees in both councils, and their
participation has been invaluable,” Kireopoulos said.
Before he became Pope Benedict, Joseph Ratzinger served on the WCC’s Faith
and Order Commission, Kireopoulos recalled.
“As Pope, he was very open to ongoing dialogue with other Christian
communions and faith groups," Kireopoulos said.
Kireopoulos, an Orthodox Christian, said Benedict has
developed a close relationship with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and has
helped to foster closer Orthodox-Catholic relations.
Kireopoulos recalled a
commentary he wrote after he was named to his NCC Faith and Order post,
on the second encyclical of Pope Benedict, Spe Salvi (Saved by
Hope). Benedict addressed important truths that are affirmed by Christians
in and outside the Roman Catholic Church, Kireopoulos wrote.
In April 2008, Benedict accepted an elegantly hand-lettered edition of the
New Revised Standard Version St. John’s Bible.
The New Revised Standard Version was translated under the auspices of the
National Council of Churches USA, which owns the copyright.
Persons who observed the presentation noted the pontiff's obvious pleasure
at seeing the volume.
"The pope's eyes lit up with joy and enthusiasm as he turned the pages,"
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, D.C., told
the Associated Press.
“That enthusiasm,” said Kireopoulos, “was a sign of Benedict’s deep
appreciation for the common ministries shared by all the Christian
The St. John's Bible, a $4 million project funded by private donations, was
commissioned by St. John's Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in Collegeville,
Minn. The calligrapher is British artist Donald Jackson.
The Pope received a copy of the Wisdom Books. The 1,150 page, 7 volume
edition of the entire Bible, measuring 3 feet wide when opened, is nearing
The NRSV was chosen as the translation because it is widely regarded as
theologically sound and is used by most major Christian churches.
Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of
the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for
shared ecumenical witness among Christians in the United States. The NCC's
37 member communions -- from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican,
Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace
churches -- include 40 million persons in more than 100,000 local
congregations in communities across the nation.
NCC News contact: Philip E. Jenks,