Updated at 3:30 p.m. Feb. 11, 2013
A billion Roman Catholics worldwide may have been shocked, but Bishop Robert Brom of the San Diego diocese said Monday that Pope Benedict’s resignation at age 85 was not a complete surprise.
“From the beginning of his pontificate in 2005, Pope Benedict has quietly indicated on occasion that he would resign if the time should come that he did not have the strength to fulfill the duties required of him as the successor of Peter,” Brom said in a statement.
Benedict has said “from the beginning that it takes a tremendous amount of energy, and if the energy runs out, for the good of the church, his intention was not to go on,” Brom told local TV and print reporters.
“The man looks exhausted,” Brom quoted fellow clergy as saying of recent visits with the pope.
Speaking at a 15-minute news conference at the diocesan Pastoral Center overlooking Mission Bay, Brom made a call to prayer for the San Diego-Imperial region’s 986,000 Catholics in 98 parishes.
“We join Pope Benedict in his prayer for the College of Cardinals that through the intercession of the blessed Virgin Mary … a suitable successor will be selected to meet the challenges of the church and the world at this moment in history.”
The resignation was not tied to ongoing scandals, Brom said.
“I don’t think it has any connection to the particular issues that the church faces,” Brom told a TV reporter who asked about “the whole sex-abuse scandal.”
Brom added: “I really think it’s a man who says I can’t go on with the energy necessary, and therefore I love the church and the people of God enough to say: Let another man go at it.”
Brom, standing near a portrait of the pope, said he met and spoke briefly with the pontiff not long after his election to succeed John Paul II.
That early summer meeting at the Vatican, when Brom was on vacation, included a brief exchange when he and other bishops met the new pontiff.
“I remember shaking his hand,” Brom said. “I identified myself and said: ‘Holy Father, pray for me. I’m the bishop in San Diego.’ He said: ‘Yes, yes, I know. But you should pray for me.’”
Brom, 74, is scheduled to retire this year—succeeded by coadjutor Bishop Cirilo Flores. The date has not been announced, but diocesan spokesman Matt Dolan said it could be this summer or closer to Brom’s birthday in September.