Bishop Michael Bransfield of the Catholic Diocese of Wheeling Charleston says the resignation of Pope Benedict is the act of a dedicated leader, serious about fulfilling his responsibilities.
"I think at this stage of his life, he is feeling the effects of being 85 years old," said Bishop Bransfield. "He's feeling the effects of having a heart condition, I believe, and having some effects of impairment from slight strokes. I think that his physical condition, he's extremely aware of. And that has impaired him. I don't think he has the strength or the stamina to do the job that he thinks has to be done by a pope."
Bishop Bransfield has met Pope Benedict at the Vatican several times, and says although his reign was one of the shortest in history, he leaves a significant legacy as a learned, multi-lingual, intellectual pope.
"I think he's a genuine intellectual," said the bishop. "And I think he was a professor. He headed up the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith during a very difficult time in our church's history, especially the history of our country and the church."
The bishop called it admirable that the elderly pontiff did not want to become a burden, or to become unable to function as he should.
We asked if perhaps the church will look to somewhat younger, more physically able candidates in the future.
"I hope so, but I wouldn't guarantee it," Bransfield said.
He says the election of the next pope will still be marked by the puffs of smoke watched around the world.
And he says Lent is the perfect time for this historic event.
"Easter is the resurrection, the whole central mystery of our faith, and he sees this as being completed by Easter," the bishop noted. "Our Lord completed his work by Easter. And I think this pope wants his work completed by Easter."
He says Pope Benedict will probably be referred to as "the Holy Father Emeritus" in his retirement.
And he says it's even possible the next pope will come from the Third World.