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St. Anthony's Students to Witness History at Vatican

St. Anthony's students touring Vatican this month have planned audience with Pope Benedict XVI cancelled, latest news explains why.

Its audience with Pope Benedict XVI was recently and abruptly cancelled. Now the St. Anthony’s High School Chorus knows why.

The South Huntington parochial school is sending a contingent of about 140 students, staff and parents to Italy this month. Among the stops is the Vatican, where the chorus will perform. 

But Monday’s announcement that the Pope is stepping down Feb. 28 means that St. Anthony’s students will get far more than a memorable tour through history. They’ll bear witness to a historic moment in Catholicism.

“First of all you’re shocked,” school principal Bro. Gary Cregan said of the Vatican’s announcement. “You just don’t expect it. You don’t have a normal process of electing someone to an office. It’s a lifetime position.” 

Cregan added: “It takes a very humble man [to resign].” 

The pontiff cited deteriorating health and indicated he is too sick to carry on his duties. It will be the first time in 600 years that a sitting Pope has abdicated the Throne of St. Peter. 

St. Anthony’s students will be in Rome Feb. 20-21 and are still scheduled to sing at St. Peter’s Basilica. 

“They’re going to have a pretty interesting slice of how the Church operates,” Cregan said of the touring students. 

How will Benedict’s tenure be viewed? St. Anthony’s students take theology classes. And while the role of the papacy in Western Civilization is at its core, Cregan said any judgment of the current Pope will have to wait.

“The breadth of history does not allow one to make a quick historical assessment,” Cregan said. “Sometimes it takes 50-100 years before you can assess the legacy of a person.”

Benedict's resignation is reverberating throughout Huntington's Catholic community.

Msgr. John Bennett of St. Patrick's Church in Huntington called it a significant moment in the life of our church.

"I don’t mean it’s a wonderful thing but it’s a wonderful moment in the Church," Bennett said. "We marveled that John Paul II stayed on despite the fact that he was so infirm.

"We should marvel that Pope Benedict is stepping aside – that’s the good shepherd coming out."

Pam Robinson and Joe Dowd contributed to this report.

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Daniel Joseph Patrick February 12, 2013 at 01:59 AM
I am a proud graduate of St. Anthony's. I remember my trip to Italy in 1993 like it was yesterday. However, the comments here from Brother Gary and Father Bennett concern me. "A humble man? A good shepherd?" Comments like these do nothing but contribute to the Churchs' politics of downplaying scandal to silence dissent. Joseph Ratzinger is resigning because he is named in a lawsuit for crimes against humanity. Period. The man was in charge of overseeing and covering up child molestation cases for decades. Being in Rome, during preparations for conclave, will be a wonderful moment for these students. However, I hope they are not blinded as to why this conclave is occurring by teachers who tell them a "humble, good" man should be given the benefit of the doubt.
Dot Schmitt February 12, 2013 at 04:40 PM
One only needs to view Mea Maxima Culpa, the documentary on HBO, for the timing and the reason for the resignation to makes sense. To say "I am stepping down for advancing age and declining health" is akin to " I am stepping down to spend more time with my family" Sadly it is politics as usual for the RC church.

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