For the first time in nearly 600 years, the leader of the Catholic Church announced Monday he is stepping down. Pope Benedict XVI says he will resign at the end of the month because of old age.
“He has a great deal of power and he is willing to give it up and I think that says a lot about his character,” said Karen Hollenbeck, Ed.D., principal at St. Boniface Catholic School.
Benedict took over as pope in 2005.
“There are very very few men who have ever had the job,” said Hollenbeck. “My initial reaction was just shock because I had never known of such a thing.”
Hollenbeck says the news surprised a lot of students. Benedict is the only pope many of the kids remember.
“We've all taught that popes are popes until they die and so this is something that we just have never experienced before,” said Hollenbeck.
Teachers at St. Boniface plan to use the pope’s resignation as a teaching tool.
“This hasn't happened in over 600 years and it's a great history lesson,” said Daniel Weidman, a math and religion teacher at St. Boniface. “It's gonna be quite interesting to watch. I remember watching when he became pope and it's a big ordeal.”
Catholics now wonder who will take Benedict’s place.
“I think the speculation starts immediately and people start wondering who it might be,” said Hollenbeck.
A Vatican spokesperson says they will have a new pope before Easter.