A local Monsignor and priest both say the announcement that Pope Benedict would resign came as a shock, but they also understand why he wants to step down from the demands of the job at age 85.
Monsignor Gerald Lewis from Saint Paul's Catholic Church in New Bern said, "This is something that we don't expect to happen. We expect the Pope to die."
Monsignor Lewis says he understands that the Pope needs to step aside because of declining health. At 80-years-old, Lewis says he plans to resign this summer. "It takes a lot to be a pastor and I'm resigning here in June and I understand it's a big job and at 85 your not nearly as strong as your are at 75."
Father Justin Kerber, Pastor of Saint Peters Church in Greenville, says the Pope's announcement was initially a bit of a surprise, but that it also makes sense to him. He says that while serving as a Cardinal, Pope Benedict had written in support of the concept of Papal resignation.
Kerber actually had the chance to meet the Pope in Rome this past October and says that he did notice that the Pope appeared to be aging. "He was as alert and he was strong. He walked slower, but I mean you could see, he's an aging man. And so it's time, he felt that it was time, and we rejoice that we had eight-years of a brilliant mind, a loving pastor, and a very holy person to lead the church and hopefully the Holy Spirit will send us someone like him."