Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation Monday morning, surprising even those who work closely with him in a sudden announcement.
Speaking before a gathering of cardinals at the Vatican, Benedict cited his advanced age and waning strength as reasons for stepping down from the post he was elected to in 2005.
"My own reaction to this announcement makes me feel proud of him as a spiritual leader," St. Gregory's Pastor David Schunk said. "He recognized his own limitations and he knows God will continue to guide the Catholic Church."
Modern life, with its "rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for life of the faith," presents difficult leadership challenges that he can no longer adequately manage, Benedict said. Benedict dealt with abuse and financial scandals during his time as pope.
"I completely understand the decision," Serra High Director of Campus Ministry Kyle Lierk said. "He's obviously suffering from something and I am happy that he gave himself what he needs."
Benedict, who is 85, is the first pope to resign since 1415.
"It's kind of unprecedented in our time," Schunk said. "It has happened before, but not for centuries. But it is something that we will all face eventually. There's always the uncertainty of retirement. That's a natural human response."
Father Dave Ghiorso of St. Charles said the Pope's decision is another example of his leadership.
"It is a historic moment for the church and the pope has set a great example, when one believes they cannot do the work of the office, their love for the Church wins out," Ghiorso said. " Always we as a church keep our leaders in our prayers and now in a very special way as a new course is set."
Father Schunk said the world will pray for the Pope and for the College of Cardinals, whom will elect the next Pope.
"The Church is a strong community," Lierk said. "Six years ago, when he was elected, we all went through that transition. It's all part of the process when we see a leadership change."
It has been suggested the Cardinals would like a new Pope in place by Easter and that possible candidates are already being vetted.
"It affects us all more as a spiritual or emotional response," Schunk said. "It's like any loved one, be it a parent or grandparent who is going into retirement. There's a feeling of unity, praying for them. You pray for his life, his health and his spirituality."
Schunk said a special prayer will make mention of the Pope during upcoming masses.
"He recognized the struggle of age and physical demands," Schunk said. "Like many leaders it's not just meeting and receiving people. It's his own writing and his own study."
Lierk led Serra High in a prayer for the Pope during the school's daily prayer Monday morning. He said the Pope will also be part of an overall prayer during Serra's Ash Wednesday service.
"He's been somebody who is slightly conservative and worked hard to come at that role as a theologian," Lierk said. "He brought honor and academics with his approach."
The Pope appointed several leaders to areas in and around the Bay Area, including Bishop Calvo in Nevada, Bishop McElroy in San Francisco and Bishop Daly in San Jose.
"At the parish level, life goes on but this will provide a wonderful teaching moment for our young people, and maybe some not so young, about the process and work of the Holy Spirit in the selection of a new pope," Ghiorso said.