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Milwaukee-area parishioners react to Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, Pope Benedict XVI, surprised the world Monday, February 11th by saying he will resign at the end of the month "because of advanced age."

It's the first time a pope has stepped down in nearly 600 years.

"Strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me," said Benedict, 85, according to the Vatican.

The news startled and shocked the Catholic world and led to frenzied speculation about who would replace him.

Colleen Hutt, a Pastoral Associate for Adult Formation and Education with St. Eugene's Parish and St. Monica Parish said she was surprised to learn Pope Benedict XVI is set to retire.

"It's been very interesting. I think Pope Benedict is really a teaching pope," Hutt said.

Hutt says she sees a teaching opportunity in the Pope Benedict's decision and the subsequent selection of the succeeding pope.

"This is a great moment, and I'm sure this will come up in our next session about how the church works, how it operates, how the pope is selected and what we value in the papacy," Hutt said.

The Executive Director of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Father Dave Bergner says Pope Benedict provided a lot of leadership and insight in terms of the Catholic Church's charitable work.

Father Dave says he anticipates this will continue to be a priority for whomever succeeds Pope Benedict.

"I think it's part of our culture as Catholics to reach out to our brothers and sisters in need, and we look to leadership -- to the Holy Father, and I'm convinced that that's gonna be a continued priority for the Holy Father as it has been for the church over hundreds of years," Father Dave said.

Pope Benedict's successor could come from the Third World, as Pope Benedict has spent a considerable time working in Third World countries and feels candidates from these regions would bring their experience in working with the very poor and suffering to the work of leadership in the church.

CLICK HERE for additional coverage on Pope Benedict XVI via FOX6Now.com.

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