Roanoke, VA - Pope Benedict has decided to leave his job at the end of the month. The 85-year-old is the first Pope to resign in nearly 600 years.
Roanoke's Catholic community is speaking out about the announcement, many expressing shock and disbelief over the Pope's resignation.
As Larry Thompson helped to prepare the sanctuary at St. Andrew's Catholic Church for lent, he and those with him had just one thing on their minds.
"I was shocked. I was very shocked. I'm sure that he has reasons that we all are not aware of but I think it is very noble of him to do that," said Thompson.
It's the same way for one the congregation's pastoral care ministers, Philip Gallagher.
"I was surprised. Very surprised," said Gallagher.
The resignation of a Pope is almost unheard of. The last Pope to do so was Pope Gregory in 1415.
Scholars debate a few other instances but no doubt this move is rare; unprecedented in modern times.
"It's uncharted in the sense that it has been a number of centuries since we have done this without having a dead Pope to bury," said Gallagher.
Which is leaving a few questions moving forward such as who will replace Benedict.
"Historically it's a very big deal, no doubt about it. Historically, it's a very big deal," said Gallagher. "We would certainly pray for him and pray for the church and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the election of his successor."
The Pope's last day is on the February 28. He is expected to go to a monastery at the Vatican to live his final days praying and writing.
About two weeks after Benedict's departure, the Cardinals' conclave will begin the election of a new Pope.
The Vatican says a new Pope will be in place by Easter.