Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony will be among those traveling to Rome next month to participate in a papal conclave to elect a successor to retiring Pope Benedict XVI.
The 210-member College of Cardinals elects the pope, but only those under age 80 can participate in the secret election.
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"Surely one of his great legacies will be a continuing emphasis on the need for all Catholics to exercise their role as evangelizers in the world," the 78-year-old cardinal said in a statement. "His focus upon the new evangelization will continue to enliven all disciples of Jesus."
As a member of the College of Cardinals, Mahony recalled the April 2005 conclave in which he helped elect the German-born pope.
"I recall so clearly his words when he told the cardinals that he was choosing the name Benedict because of his fondness for the prayerfulness and the Rule of St. Benedict, and also because Pope Benedict XV served during a time of turmoil and wars across the world," Mahony said.
The previous Pope Benedict served from 1914-20.
The current pope, who cited failing strength of mind and body, would become the first head of the Roman Catholic Church to resign from the lifelong appointment in about 600 years. He appointed 67 of the 118 cardinals who will pick a successor, who needs two-thirds approval to be elected pope.
Mahony said he looked forward to thanking the pope in person "and to participate in the conclave to elect his successor."
During the 8:10 a.m. Mass at St. Mel Catholic Church in Woodland Hills, Msgr.
Instead, he read from the pope's statement of resignation announcement, and asked that worshippers "take him at his word" that he's stepping aside because of advanced age.
After Mass, parishioners Kodjoe and Eucharie Omoruyi expressed disappointment at the resignation of the 85-year-old pope.
"I was surprised, but I think he should stay," said Eucharie, holding her 16-month-old daughter, Natalie.
Geri Buttke praised Pope Benedict's leadership and credited him for having the humility to resign when he felt he could no longer fulfill his duties.
"He tried to bring back more traditional aspects of the church, rather than all the secularism that has crept into just about everything," she said.
She believes Pope Benedict's successor will face the challenge of bringing together a fragmented and troubled church.
"He's going to have one tough job," she said.
Buttke also said she had mixed feelings that Mahony will be representing Los Angeles Catholics in electing the pope.
He was publicly rebuked by Archbishop Jose Gomez following revelations that he'd deliberately shielded priests who had molested children.
However, the stripping of all "administrative and public duties" does not extend to his responsibilities as cardinal.
Mahony has repeatedly apologized for failing to report the sex abuse to police and to remove the priests from their ministry.
Some parishioners arriving at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Fontana were nervous about what the future holds.
"I can't believe what's happened. It's kind of scary, I think," said Susanna Espinoza, an official at St. Joseph.
The concern from Espinoza, a lifelong Catholic, didn't end there. He pondered the future. "What's going to become of our religion?" she said.
Some parishioners hoped that there would be prayers for the Pope's health. Others hadn't even heard the news of the Pope's resignation.
The Rev. Guillermo Martinez heard the news on the Pope from a parishioner after morning Mass.
The Pope's resignation came as a surprise, but he says he's not worried about the future of the church. "There is no concern because we have good candidates to be the Pope," he said.
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