Pope Benedict XVI delivers his “Urbi et Orbi” (to the City and to the World) speech from the central loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica, at the Vatican on, Tuesday, Dec. 25. AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia
Pope Benedict XVI delivers his “Urbi et Orbi” (to the City and to the World) speech from the central loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica, at the Vatican on, Tuesday, Dec. 25.

AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia
February 11, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation Monday and said his advanced age is preventing him from fulfilling duties.

The pope's resignation is official on Feb. 28. Benedict is the first pope in six centuries to resign the church's highest role after eight years in it, having succeeded the late Pope John Paul II.

"It was a total shock. I respect his age, 85, and he cannot be as visible as he would like to be getting out to the different countries," said Vern Henkenius, president of Kuemper Catholic Schools.

Henkenius, who has been a member of the Carroll Area Serra Club, which promotes religious vocations, since it was formed, said the decision is one Catholic must respect.

"They've had to cut back on his schedule," Henkenius said. "So I'm sure that's a concern. I respect his decision. It's kind of unprecedented and a shock, but that's the way life is nowadays."

He described the pope as low-key and said he was more of a laid-back, moderate type of leader and yet he was very visible, the latter of which was probably difficult for him because of an advancing age.

As for a new pope, Henkenius said he believes the Church will find a pope to carry on the traditions of the Catholic Church.

"It's not a time for weakness and it's not a time for wavering on what the church stands for, even though there are a lot of attacks," Henkenius said.

At Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Carroll, Father Tim Johnson said he heard the news on public radio early this morning.

"I was very surprised, not shocked but surprised," said Johnson, pastor at Holy Spirit.

Johnson said he was aware that the pope had voiced concerns to confidants about his age and ability to carry out one of the world's more significant jobs.

"I feel secure about the Church, the leaders who are in place," Johnson said.

With a strong Catholic Church presence in Latin American and Africa, Johnson said, the church very well may have its first Hispanic or African pope.

It is possible the church could elect its first non-European pope since the Great Schism. The developing world contains half of the world's 1 billion Catholics.

"Yes, I believe that openness is guided by the Holy Spirit," Johnson said.

He added, "I'd be very open to it."

Sioux City Diocese Bishop R. Walker Nickless was one of the first bishops to be appointed by Pope Benedict XVI on Nov. 10, 2005.

"This morning's announcement by His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, of his resignation of the office of Successor of Peter and Bishop of Rome, shocked and surprised me," Nickless said in a statement. "Yet I am sure that God's perfect plan for His Church and the salvation of souls is being followed, and that 'all things work for the good of those who love Him.'"

Nickless said that since Pope Benedict named him to be the seventh Bishop of Sioux City in November 2005, he's had several opportunities to meet with him, most recently last March, with other bishops from the United States.

"I admire our Holy Father greatly for his constant, strong and courageous leadership of the Church in these troubled times. He has been the right man at the right time for a most difficult job in the Church and in the world," Nickless said. "His love for the Church, and for the poor, is always evident in his ministry, and his pastoral example has always inspired me - as it has so many bishops, priests, religious and laity - to strive more fully to imitate the perfect example of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to embrace my vocation with a heart on fire with love."

Nickless said he offers his unqualified support, and he joins the church in praying for the pope, the College of Cardinals and for Benedict's successor.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, former bishop of the Sioux City Diocese (1998 to 2004), will be part of the papal conclave selecting the next pope in March. He had no published comments on the decision as of presstime.