Catholics seemed genuinely taken aback Monday morning as they woke to news of the Pope's decision to resign. NY1's Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report.
It's been six centuries since a Pope has stepped down. And while it's not an unprecedented decision, it's certainly a historic one.
"I was really surprised this morning when i heard. I never expected something like this would happen," said one parishioner.
"I was shocked but also proud of him that he reached this point of thought and prayed about it for a long time. It's a good decision," said another parishioner.
Reverend Brian Jordan of Our Lady of Peace in Gowanus says the decision is a rational one, and not surprising coming from a leader he described as a highly intelligent and studious man.
"He realized he has a limited situation with his health," Jordan said.
He also praised the Pope's timing. Benedict XVI announced his exit just as Catholics prepare to usher in the season of Lent.
"The season we realize our own mortality, the sanctification of our soul. So I truly admire the Holy Father for making this decision right before the season of Lent," Jordan noted.
The unexpected announcement has certainly captured the attention of Catholics around the world and while they don't have an active say in who will fill the papal vacancy, they do take an active interest.
"I think we're going to be more united in prayer being that he announced for us to do the rosary. We will gather and say the rosary," said one parishioner.
As for his successor, some of the New York faithful say they won't be surprised if the new Pope hails from America. And while some feel Cardinal Timothy Dolan would be a perfect candidate, Father Jordan would prefer for him to choose the next Pope in Rome, not become him.
"That would be the Vatican's gain and New York's loss," Jordan said. "Timothy Cardinal Dolan would be an excellent Pope. However, we want to keep him in New York."
Along with a billion Catholics worldwide, Father Jordan said the people of his parish will be watching the decision closely.