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Pope's Resignation a Surprise, Shock to New Rochelle

The 85-year-old pontiff will resign effective Feb. 28.

Surprise and respect were some of the reactions around New Rochelle to the news of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.

The pope announced Monday morning his intention to resign the papacy, effective Feb. 28, due to concerns over his health.

According to the Huffington Post, the 85-year-old pontiff told a meeting of Vatican cardinals.

"After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths due to an advanced age are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry," he said.

Elena G. Procario-Foley, chairwoman of Iona College's Department of Religious Studies, said the news became an immediate topic of discussion in her classes Monday.

She said the act of resignation, the procedure of which exists in religious law, speaks of two equally important things.

"It was a stunning act of humility," Procario-Foley said. "And it means that he is always the teacher. He is teaching that the office is far more important than the person who holds the office."

She also said that it was "an extremely significant act that was a significant moment for the Roman Catholic Church."

A practicing Catholic, Procario-Foley also had her personal feelings about the resignation.

"I think because the office itself is at a human level, it was very poignant," she said. "But it was also historic."

Procario-Foley said the last time a pope resigned was under vastly different circumstances.

"The reason why it happened in 1417 was to end a schism in the church," she said, adding that the papacy had moved to Avignon with no intentions of coming back. There were three popes and three Colleges of Cardinals.

The resignation was to wipe the slate clean, so to speak, so the church could be renewed and the papacy restored to Rome, Procario-Foley said.

"That resignation was at a time of extraordinary crisis in the church," she said.

Br. Thomas Leto, president of Iona Preparatory School, said his initial reaction upon hearing the news was "shock and surprise."

"We know the holy father has not been in the best of health," he said. "That Benedict has decided to resign speaks very well of him, and his vision for the church at large.

"I think it was selfless," Leto said, "giving up something he obviously loves very much."

As far as a successor, he said the man chosen will have to understand that the world is a much smaller place than it was many years ago.

"I think we need somebody who is compassionate and energic and sees the differences in our world," Leto said, "somebody who can bring a real sense of God's peace to the world."

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