LAS CRUCES, N.M. — The outgoing bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Las Cruces said Monday the announcement from Pope Benedict XVI stepping down came as a surprise but understands the reasoning behind it.
At 85 years old, Pope Benedict cited a decrease in strength required to fulfill his duties as pope.
"It was a surprise at first, but then after thinking it over I said he's making the right decision," said Bishop Ricardo Ramirez.
Ramirez said Pope Benedict stepping down is a tribute to his spirituality and a devotion to the faith.
"I think this is a powerful gesture of humility on his part," Ramirez said. "Yet here he is a world figure and he's leaving all that power and stepping aside."
Ramirez understands how the pressures of the job can be taxing at an advanced age.
Ramirez, the first and only bishop in Las Cruces, is also set to retire.
He said through his own experience he could relate to Pope Benedict and the amount of work required.
"I'm a bishop of a small diocese and I know how stressing it can be," Ramirez said. "I can just imagine with him being the head of the universal church, how many pressures must be on him."
Ramirez said in the time Pope Benedict has led the Catholic faith, he has certainly left his mark on the church.
The longtime bishop applauded the pope for his great depth and clarity in his writing and is certain his work will last for generations to come.
"As pope he's one of the most brilliant popes we've ever had," Ramirez said.
Ramirez added he was impressed by the pope's ability to connect with young people.
Pope Benedict took up social media and had his first ever tweet last December.
Ramriez said he can't believe the decision to step down was an easy one for Pope Benedict, but hopes people understand it's the best interest of the faith.
"Bishops, cardinals, popes we are all human and we all have our limitations," Ramirez said. "There comes a time we can't do what we used to do."
The Catholic Church hopes to have a new pope by Easter.
The final day for both Ramirez and Pope Benedict will be February 28th.
Bishop Ramirez Farewell Mass:
Tuesday, February 12, 2013 (Open to the public)
Cathedral of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
1240 South Espina Street / Las Cruces, NM