Assumption Principal Sees Pope Benedict's Resignation as 'Teaching Moment'
Many adults told her "I didn't even know they could resign."
Assumption Regional Catholic School Principal Mary Ellen Schurtz describes this morning’s announcement of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation as sad, yet exciting, and recognizes this can be a teaching moment for the children at her school and Catholics around the world.
“I’ve had adults say to me, ‘I didn’t know they were allowed to resign,’” Schurtz said. “I don’t know if the children ever even thought about it. I told them this was not the norm. It’s been nearly 600 years since the last resignation, and even then, it was a forced resignation.”
Pope Gregory XII resigned in 1415 to end a schism in the church in which three popes claimed the throne. In doing so, he designated a council to elect his successor.
Schurtz went on to say that even in 2005, when Pope Benedict XVI was elected Pope following the death of Pope John Paul II, students who are in eighth grade now were only seven years old. Pope John Paul II was Pope from 1978-2005, so Schurtz thinks many adults may not even be sure what happens next.
“This is an historical moment,” Schurtz said. “ … It’s exciting, yet sad. Now, (the children) can learn the process.”
Schurtz informed the students at the K-8 catholic school during the daily assembly Monday morning, Feb. 11.
“We asked them to pray for the Pope and for the Cardinal who will travel to Rome” to elect a new pope, Schurtz said.
Pope Benedict announced he was resigning because he “no longer has the strength to fulfill his duties of the office.” His resignation takes effect Feb. 28.
Schurtz learned of the news while at school this morning.
“If Pope Benedict feels it’s best for the church that he resign, thinking of us as Catholics, I appreciate that he understands his limitations,” Schurtz said.
Schurtz has been Assumption School Principal for four years, and was vice principal for two years before that. She’s been with Assumption since 1991, and described a “certain exuberance” that comes with the announcement of the new Pope.
The school has been open since 1957. This will be the seventh different Pope named over that time period.
Earlier this year, the church associated with the school and St. Nicholas Church in Egg Harbor City combined to form the Our Lady of Perpetual Health Parish, although both churches have also maintained their individual identities.