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Local Catholic Community Reacts to Pope's Resignation

LAWTON Okla_ A historic and shocking announcement out of the Vatican, as Pope Benedict the 16th is resigning. He's the first to do so in nearly 600 years.

The pope is now 85 years old, and he cited his age and his health when making his announcement Monday. Benedict was elected in 2005 and was a frail man then. Few Catholics expected his papacy would end like this, though.

Just like the rest of the world, the Lawton area Catholic community is shocked at the news. 7News Reporter Jonathan Rozelle spoke with some of the local community. They said things for the Catholic community will go on as scheduled until another Pope is put in his place.

It was a stunning announcement from Pope Benedict the 16th, delivered in Latin at the end of a meeting of cardinals in Rome.

"After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I've come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to the adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry," Pope Benedict said.

For students at St. Mary's Catholic School here in Lawton, the news was a surprise, but for teacher Robert Quinnett, it was interesting.

"To me it makes a lot of sense," Quinnett said. "If he's not able to function as the Pope mentally and physically, then why not step down and let somebody else step up?"

Not since Pope Gregory in 1415 had a Pope stepped down from the position. Father James Stafford of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Lawton said he feared the worst when he first saw the Pope's picture flash across news channels this morning.

"I thought ‘Oh my God. He's died," Father Stafford said. "Then, it said he's resigned. The world is in such turmoil, that I'm sure Pope Benedict realized there needs to be somebody who is alert and active and ready to make decisions and carry out things. So, he's reached that decision."

Even though Pope Benedict has said before that he would not be Pope for life, Father Stafford said he doesn't think this will set a precedent.

"They hadn't done it for 600 years," Stafford said. "I don't think they're going to start doing it now."

Benedict was known as God's Rottweiler. He never veered far from his conservative beliefs. He condemned gay marriage, the ordination of women, and allowing priests to marry. For now, Catholics and spectators around the world like Quinnett wait to see who will take the new title as "Pope."

"We might see a younger Pope," Quinnett said, "Much like John Paul II. He was quite young when he was elected as pope. So, maybe we will see the same."

Catholic cardinals will gather in Rome in early March to elect a new pope. So, it's likely Benedict's successor could be in place by Easter Sunday.

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