Philadelphia Area Catholics Shocked Over Pope's Resignation

Area Catholics Stunned But Impressed Over Pope's Resignation

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A woman prays during mass in the chapel of the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, in Center City. A woman prays during mass in the chapel of the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, in Center City.
PHILADELPHIA -

Philadelphia area Catholics reacted Monday to the news that Pope Benedict XVII- citing failing health- will resign at the end of February.

"This is a time when the church depends heavily on the Holy Spirit that guides us and helps us and directs us," said Monsignor Arthur Rodgers, during midday mass in the chapel of the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, in Center City.

The monsignor called this an historic day and asked those in attendance to pray for the pontiff's good health.

Parishioners were stunned, but impressed, by the pontiff's stunning announcement.

"I was very shocked and surprised," said Jackee Simpkins after the service. "I think at this point we can just hope and pray and wish for the best."

"Pretty humbling, right?" said James Price outside the chapel. "Somebody willing to say, ‘hey, the duty that I have is very important and I'm not physically able to continue on with that duty going forward.' I think that's a good example of humility and responsibility."

Benedict was 78 at the time of his election- the oldest newly elevated pontiff in three centuries.

He appeared to be in reasonable health during a 2008 visit to this country- celebrating masses before huge crowds in New York and Washington, DC.

But more recently, he began to look haggard, weak, cutting back on his public appearances and world travel.

Still, resignation?

Bishop Dennis Sullivan will be installed Wednesday as the Camden diocese' newest leader.

"Breaking news from the Vatican- that's exactly what I heard," the bishop told reporters Monday. "I thought he may have died or something."

On the campus of Villanova University- Pennsylvania's oldest Catholic university, Pope Benedict's legacy might surprise you.

He was the first pontiff to make use of Twitter- attracting more than a million and a half followers since his first tweet in December.

"Definitely Twitter," said ‘Nova student Dante Iacovella. Our new generation is all about technology so that's what we tend to focus on and think about the most."

The College of Cardinals will convene in Rome next month to elect Benedict's successor. Cardinals under the age of 80 are eligible to vote. Included in that group is the former leader of the Philadelphia Archdiocese, Cardinal Justin Rigali.

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