A stunning announcement Monday that Pope Benedict will resign at the end of this month. He told a meeting of cardinals Monday morning that his duties require "strength of mind and body," and that he simply isn't strong enough anymore. The Pope is 85 years old and will be the first Pope to step down in 600 years.
Like most people across the world, the announcement took the diocese in Richmond by surprise.
"The news that came out from the holy father this morning I think surprised the entire church," said Rev. Michael Boehling.
At a special mass at St. Mary's Hospital's chapel, no one could have predicted the news of the day.
"I've received a lot of text messages and emails from friends and family members and quite honestly I think they are just as surprised as I am," Boehling said.
Rev. Boehling recounts positive memories of Pope Benedict.
"He's been an amazing priest, an amazing pope and we pray for him as he prepares for retirement and I hope he gets some rest," he said.
Richmond Bishop Francis DiLorenzo issued a statement saying the Pope served well, adding that the church wishes him all the best in his retirement and dedicates to pray for as a new successor is elected.
"Cardinals of the world will gather in Rome for a Papal Conclave in which they will elect a new pope," said Steve Neill, editor of the Catholic Virginian newspaper.
Neill says there are a few attributes of a good leader that he would like to see carried over in whoever becomes the next Pope.
"A Pope would be a good strong leader who would carry on the traditions of the church, he would also be a good listener," Neill said.
"We can understand that with his advanced age, his weakening health, he believes this is the right thing for the church at this time," Boehling added.
President Obama said he and the First Lady remember meeting the Pope in 2009 and appreciated their work together. Mr. Obama said the Roman Catholic Church plays a critical role not only in the United States but also the world.
A new Pope is expected to be selected before the end of March.
Copyright 2013 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.
WWBT-TV NBC 12
P.O. Box 12
On Your Side
Video and Pics