ALBANY, N.Y. -- Local church leaders are reacting to the pope's resignation announcement Monday.
It was with this announcement that Father Ken Doyle began Monday morning's mass at Mater Christi, and dozens of parishioners gathering for worship reflected on the news.
"It was a surprise. I think this is the first time in modern history that a pope resigned," said Father Doyle.
The Catholic Church hasn't seen such sudden change since 1415 when Pope Gregory the VII stepped down, yet with his health in question, the decision is one that is widely accepted -- at least at Mater Christi.
"I think it's only tradition that pope's stay on until death as far as I know. If the pope does not have the energy and drive to run the church worldwide, it's probably the thing to do," said Father Doyle.
Father Doyle never expected the historic move, the pastor has worked with the pope during his visit to the capital Region, but he says the more he thinks about it, the more he feels this is actually characteristic of the 85-year old pontiff.
"He said if he ever in conscience reached a point where he felt his health compromised his responsibilities, he would resign," said Father Doyle.
Albany Roman Catholic Diocese Bishop Howard Hubbard says he was shocked by the news pope Benedict the XVI is stepping down, but he's not surprised that it's due to the pontiff's failing health. The pope was 78-years old when elected 8 years ago.
"There was some question about someone of that age assuming the awesome responsibilities of the papacy," said Hubbard. "If he feels he can't do a job that he's assigned to do, then the next best thing is for him to step down."
People out and about Monday largely agreed that although a pope retiring from his post is an extremely rare move, it's understandable that Benedict wouldn't want to lead the Catholic Church in poor health.
"You can see that his health has declined, especially within the last two years. I was in Rome this past October and I was struck by how more frail he was than the year before," said Hubbard.
The Vatican stresses that no specific medical condition prompted the 85-year old pope's decision. He was completely lucid and made the choice independently.
That resignation comes on February 28, and quite a few people are also reacting to the timing of the resignation.
Lent begins on Wednesday, one of the holiest times for the Catholic Church, and many parishioners voiced their thoughts on that as well.
Father Doyle says he is confident, however, that the church will have a new pope named by Easter which this year will be celebrated on March 31.
That vote will take place in a conclave -- or a private meeting amongst cardinals.
But what happens to the pope after he officially steps down? He will live a solitary life, devoted to prayer. The Vatican said immediately after his resignation, Benedict will live at Castel Gandolfo, a cloistered monastery south of Rome.
And that means the leader of Catholics all over the world will live out the remainder of his life, closed off to the outside world.
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