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Local Catholics React To Pope's Resignation

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Pope Benedict XVI has only been the pope for about eight years, but at age 85, many are saying today's announcement is shocking, but understandable.  

Now Catholics everywhere are looking ahead at what's next for the Church. 

"I was just very surprised to hear it, it was kind of a shock," Diocese of Davenport Bishop Martin Amos says. 

Catholics around the world and here in the QCA are reacting with shock and surprise to Monday's announcement. 

"It never really entered my mind that it would happen," Dr. Corinne Winter, Professor of Theology at St. Ambrose University, says. 

The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII in 1415, but local Catholic leaders say a lot has changed since then; being pope has become a much busier job.

"I met him [Pope Benedict] last year in Rome, and he looked very tired," Bishop Amos says, "I can't imagine his daily schedule must be like, plus the dignitaries he has to meet with, the talks he has to give; I just can't imagine what a day would be like." 

Local Catholics say, ever since Pope John Paul II, the pope has been a more accessible public figure, required to travel and be more engaging with the world and be the voice of the Catholic Church. 

"That requires a kind of strength it would not require if he could simply sit in Rome and do everything he needed to do from a desk," Winter says. 

In a world that keeps changing, the papacy has to keep up with it.  

"Trying to balance things out, trying to be the church in the modern world, and yet respect the traditions that are ours is a difficult task," Bishop Amos says. 

So local Catholics say this resignation could set a new precedent. 

"It shows that the pope doesn't have to be pope for all the rest of his life," Winter says, "We can acknowledge human weakness in this era when people are living so much longer." 

Pope Benedict's retirement will take effect February 28th. The Church will then begin the process of choosing a new pope in March.