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Catholics react to Pope Benedict XVIs resignation
Sister Ann Venita, right, and Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of the Diocese of Stockton, second from left, are pictured during the annual Christmas party for area seniors hosted by St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Manteca. Sister Ann met in person Pope Benedict XVI in Rome while he was still known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

A smiling Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is shown standing next to Sister Ann Venita in a photograph hanging in her office at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Manteca.

The picture was taken 22 years ago when Sister Ann was at the Vatican for the beatification of the founder of her religious order, the Daughters of the Cross. More than a decade later, that cardinal became Pope Benedict XVI.

“He’s a very nice and friendly man. I was lucky I saw him. He’s a good man,” the former parochial school principal and teacher who is now coordinator of St. Anthony’s Ministry of Caring recalled that memorable moment in Rome.

That happy encounter turned to sadness for Sister Ann early Monday morning when she, along with the rest of the world, heard the shocking news that the pope has announced his resignation effective Feb. 28, citing health reasons.

“It’s sad, but I think it’s great that he has the courage to admit that he can’t go on instead of going on and pushing himself. It takes great courage to admit that you have to retire. He can’t go on when he’s not well,” she said.

During that chance encounter and brief chat with the future pope in 1991 at St. Peter’s Square in Rome, Sister Ann, who was with some members of her religious order, recalled, “He was taking his afternoon walk.”

Anna Bourbeau was also shocked to hear the news