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Pope's Resignation Comes As A Surprise

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The Catholic world was struck with surprise as Pope Benedict XVI announced he would retire at the end of February.

For the first time in about 600 years, a Pope has stepped down from the position due to his age and health effective February, 28.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became the 265th Pope on April 19, 2005.  He chose Benedict XVI as his name due to the last Pope called Benedict, saying he was a man of peace.

Father Mariano Varela works at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Mankato.  He says the announcement came as a surprise to many.  "Very surprised for me, but I think with the spirit of faith, we can accept and be very joyful" Father Varela said.

All eligible Cardinals will travel to Rome and take part in the voting process behind closed doors.  The decision is expected to be quick, and the next Pope could be decided sometime in March.  Clergy and others have to watch from the sidelines as the election process plays out, but Father Varela says there is one thing they can do.

"We just have to pray for him and for the whole church so that we may continue to bear witness to the faith here on Earth" Father Varela said.

Resignations within the Papacy are uncommon, but it does follow their constitution, meaning any Pope can resign.

"To leave a very important role is a sign of humility" said Father Varela.

Despite this being a retirement versus a death, what's ahead is expected to be the same.  The ring of St. Peter will be destroyed and the Papal Apartments are expected to be sealed during the Conclave.