BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - News of Pope Benedict XVI's decision to resign came as a shock to Roman Catholic leaders and followers. The Holy Father made the announcement in Latin before Vatican Cardinals Monday morning. The leader cited old age as the reason for his resignation.
While word spread fast, it took the Catholic community by surprise. Some were just learning of the news on their way into noon mass.
"When did this happen. I had not heard that. Well, that's sad," Beryl Templet said.
"It really surprised me. I said what," Vicky LaHaye said.
Monsignor Paul Counce, Pastor of St. Joseph's Cathedral in Baton Rouge said he learned over the internet.
"I was about to go out to exercise. I flicked on Facebook just to check, and that's how I found out," Msgr. Counce said.
Benedict accepted his calling to the papacy in 2005, at the age of 78. Father Counce said he was surprised the Cardinals would elect someone of advanced age. However, the pastor said Benedict's wisdom, love of liturgy and good order have been valuable gifts to the Catholic Church.
"To resign an office you don't have to resign is a tremendous act of humility," Counce said.
Catholics called it selfless.
"I'm surprised but I think it's a good thing because the church needs a lot of work now and if he feels because of his age or health he is unable to do it I think it's graceful thing to do," Cyriac Luke said.
All eyes are on Rome as the Cardinals prepare to elect a new shepherd.
"The Pope is a selection from God. That's God's work. I hope he has good health and hope that the next one will carry on his good work," Templet said.
A group of 120 cardinals will elect a new pope. Their goal is to name a replacement before Easter.