EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) -- Pope Benedict XVI shocked Catholics around the world Monday when he announced his decision to become the first head of the church to resign in almost 600 years.
With nearly 60 percent of Rhode Islanders being Roman Catholic, many local parishioners were outspoken about the announcement.
"I'm shocked, I'm really shocked, and I'm saddened to hear that news," said St. Brendan's Parishioner Elaine Layton.
According to the Associated Press, the pope called his choice "a decision of great importance for the life of the church."
"I didn't even know it could be done," said Lucy Harris, also of St. Brendan's. "But he said his age and his health, and he felt that he couldn't do it anymore."
After hearing the news, the Most Rev. Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, issued a statement, saying: "I was stunned by the news that our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI will resign his office at the end of the month. He is a man of great wisdom and holiness and he has given everything – his heart and mind, his soul and strength – to the difficult task of leading the Church.
Our Holy Father's resignation is, I believe, an act of great humility for he understands that the needs of the Church are greater than his own; that ultimately the well-being of the Church is in God's hands, not the Pope's.
I will pray in gratitude for Pope Benedict's service and also that our Holy Father will now enjoy a time of rest and prayer that he so richly deserves. May God bless Pope Benedict!"
A conclave will be held in March to elect a new leader for the world's approximately 1 billion Catholics.
Copyright WPRI 12