Tribland area Catholics shared feelings of disbelief at the news of Pope Benedict XVI's announcement this morning that he will resign his post on Feb. 28.
Citing his advancing age, the 85-year-old pontiff becomes the first pope in nearly 600 years to step down from the role of spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Church, which today claims 1.8 billion members worldwide. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was chosen to succeed Pope John Paul II on April 19, 2005, following John Paul's death 17 days earlier.
The Rev. Joseph Walsh, pastor of St. Cecilia Catholic Church, learned of the pope's announcement this morning from a fellow priest. He said he remembers well praying a rosary with fellow Catholics at Catholic Social Services in Lincoln upon hearing of Ratzinger's election in 2005. He said he intends to offer similar prayers in response to Benedict XVI's bombshell announcement.
"It was very unexpected," Walsh said. "I think the immediate fear — certainly mine — is 'Oh my goodness, a vacancy!' It's something we never experience with the exception of death.