An unexpected announcement from the Vatican on Monday sent shock waves throughout the Catholic Church.
Pope Benedict XVI, 85, said in a meeting of cardinals at the Vatican early Monday that he will be resigning because of his advanced age.
In his public statement, the Pope said, "After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of Petrine ministry."
In 2005, at the age of 78, Pope Benedict set the precedent of being the oldest Pope elected in nearly 300 years. Now he has distinguished himself as the first Pope to abdicate since Pope Gregory XII in 1415 A.D.
One Lubbock woman said she supports the Pope's decision.
"I think that the energy, emotionally and spiritually in being a Pope, to lead that many people, you need to be in really good health. If his health was failing at all, I can imagine that would be really a challenge to being such a great leader," she said.
Monsignor Eugene Driscoll with Lubbock Catholic Diocese said hearing the news was a great surprise to him.
"I just went to the office this morning and it was a parishioner who told me. I did not hear the news on the TV or the radio," said Monsignor Driscoll.
Monsignor Driscoll said he was just with Pope Benedict last March. Driscoll did notice that the Pope had trouble walking and was aware that he had a problem with his knees.
"I think also that after the advice of his doctors, he decided and took time to pray and reflect on this great task of resigning because it hasn't been done in 600 years," he said.
This year is deemed "The Year of Faith" by the Catholic Church and according to Driscoll, Catholics will now need that faith to depend on the Holy Spirit through this transition.
The Vatican will hold a conclave to elect a new Pope by mid-March. The Catholic Church has relied on this method since 1241 A.D.
According to Driscoll, at the time of the conclave about 117 cardinals who are under the age of 80 will gather in the Sistine Chapel. The cardinals will be isolated from the world and all other forms of communication as they search their hearts in prayer for the right leader.
They cast ballots in the Chapel and burn them after each vote. Until they reach a vote of two-thirds plus one, the cardinals burn straw with the ballots, creating black smoke. White smoke coming from the chapel signals that a new Pope has been chosen. Then the bells ring and then the Cardinal-Prefect comes out and makes the announcement.
A Lubbock Catholic man said that when he heard the news he was stunned.
"Just shocked really, it's out of nowhere and I have mixed feelings. I guess they're just going to elect another Pope and they always make the right decision. So just pray on it," he said.
Pope Benedict is set to resign at 8pm on February 28, 2013.
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