Many Catholics around the world – and right here in Newton – were surprised to see Pope Benedict XVI announce Monday morning that he would resign at the end of the month.
"He is a wonderful pope – it seems like it's coming out of the blue," said Father Charles Higgins, pastor at Mary Immaculate of Lourdes in Newton Upper Falls.
Benedict's move is unprecedented in the modern world. The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII in 1415, but that was to end a rift in the Catholic world. Benedict, 85, made his decision based on his belief that he could not perform his duties sufficiently because of his age.
Although he know Benedict was "getting on in years," Higgins said he was still struck with "astonishment, surprise and sadness," when he heard the news.
Higgins commended Benedict's "clarity" in his teaching as well as his writing.
"People have really been able to see his humanity in the last few years," Higgins said. "We've grown to have a lot of affection for him."
At both Monday's morning and noon Mass, Higgins said members of his church shared similar reactions to the Pope's announcement.
"Pretty much everyone is astonished and a little bit sad," Higgins said. "We will miss him."
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