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Springfield Bishop: 'Old and Young Alike' Are Asking About Papal Transition

Bishop James Johnston, Jr. was selected by Pope Benedict XVI to come to Springfield five years ago
Bishop James Johnston
James V. Johnston, Jr. is the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau. (Photo provided by Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau)

Catholics around the world are bidding farewell to Pope Benedict the sixteenth, who has chosen to end his papacy by stepping down officially Thursday, February 28. Here in Springfield, the Bishop has been taking phone calls and fielding questions about this transition, which is unusual because the Pope is still living. KSMU’s Jennifer Davidson has more.

The Bishop in Springfield is James V. Johnston, Jr.  He says both old and young have approached him to talk about the decision of Pope Benedict XVI to step down.

“I was meeting with our Boy Scouts last night, and these were 14-year-olds asking me what I thought about it. So I have had a lot of inquiry from people from across the diocese. And I’ve shared with them that, for myself, it was surprising, but also a bit bittersweet as well.  Pope Benedict XVI is beloved. He’s been a great gift to all of us, especially in terms of his teaching. He’s a great scholar, and he very much exudes the joy of believing,” Johnston said.

For him, Johnston says, it’s personal, because Pope Benedict XVI was the one who chose Johnston to come here as Bishop five years ago.

Johnston says he respects Pope Benedict’s wisdom, and he honors his decision to step down.

Johnston says when one Pope leaves office and another takes his place, it brings the church together.

“It does highlight the communion that we have with our brothers and sisters all over the world as members of a community of faith that is very broad and international and spread out. And the Pope, in a sense, is a sign of that unity. So when something like this happens, it really does highlight that and make us even more aware of that,” Johnston said.

Johnston is Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, which covers 39 counties across southern Missouri. 

For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Davidson.

ANCHOR TAG: Springfield Bishop James Johnston, Jr. will celebrate the outgoing Pope with a Mass of Thanksgiving at the Holy Trinity Catholic Church on Bennett Street in Springfield. That mass begins at 6:30 Wednesday evening (2/27). For more information, you can click here.