Nearly 500K local Catholics learn news of Pope stepping down - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

Heavily Catholic Tri-State surprised by Pope's decision

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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) -

After eight years, Pope Benedict XVI is stepping down. The stunning announcement was made in Latin on Monday.

The news is a big deal here in the Tri-State, which is a heavily Catholic community home to half a million baptized worshippers.

The 85-year-old pontiff told cardinals at the Vatican he no longer has the strength to carry out his ministry and plans to step down on February 28th. Cardinals will gather next month to choose a successor.

As expected, most people were very surprised by the announcement, and many were still trying to digest the news. A pope has not resigned since the year 1415, so for Catholics, this is an uncommon event.

"It's surprising, but I think, as has been told, he's very intelligent and so I think he made a wise choice," said Gloria Lindahl of Finneytown.

As parishioners, like Lindahl, left mass at St. Peter in Chains, many were still processing the news that Pope Benedict XVI would step down from his role as leader of the Catholic Church.

"I was very surprised, because I didn't know he was ill or had some kind of illness," added Colleen Shimrock, parishioner at St. Peter in Chains.

"I also found it very inspiring that he is recognizing his physical limitations, and still being inspired by the Holy Spirit to answer his calling and live his life of obedience," agreed Charlotte Boemker, of Verona, Ky.

Benedict's predecessor, Pope John Paul II was the second longest reigning pope in history. When asked what legacy Benedict left behind, many referenced filling the shoes of John Paul.

"I think that was a hard position to fill, and I think he's done a really good job of making people feel safe," Boemker added. "Especially at this time in our country and in our world that we really need to return to our roots and our Christian values."

Others feel like this could be a time of change for the Catholic faith.

"I think he brought the church a little too much to the conservative side to my way of thinking, but I am not in charge," Lindahl said. "I think that we need a moderate leader."

At services, local church leaders addressed the uncertainty that the Catholic Church is faced with and asked parishioners to pray for Benedict in his retirement.

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