CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) - For the first time in centuries, the leader of the Catholic Church is stepping down. Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday he will resign the end of the month. He said he no longer has the strength to fulfill his mission.
Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world Monday when he announced he will step down. The Catholic church's 85-year-old leader told a meeting of Vatican cardinals he doesn't feel physically strong enough to continue his ministry.
"I think it's quite honorable that he feels he can no longer, with his health and his age, keep going. That's a lot of responsibility on this man," said Mike Tolle of Chicopee.
The pope will continue to serve until February 28th, when the custom of electing a new pope will begin. Cardinals from around the world will gather in Rome to choose the new leader and face of the Catholic church.
It's been nearly 600 years since a pope abdicated his seat. But even centuries later the qualities needed to lead the church stay the same.
"I think he needs to be a spiritual person. Someone who isn't afraid to speak the truth of the gospel. Someone who has a sense of who he's about and the mission of Jesus and he's not afraid to communicate that," said Fr. Michael Zielke of St. Stanislaus Basilica.
Many hope the next pope will be able to have a more lasting presence as guide of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.
"I would like to see a younger cardinal get in there and hold the position for 20 years," said Tolle.
Pope Benedict XVI became the church's 265th pope in 2005, after the death of John Paul II.
Before Pope Benedict's resignation, Pope Gregory the XII was the last pope to resign in the year 1415.