When Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation – becoming the first pope to actually step down in nearly 600 years – he spawned a flurry of discussion around the world.
The 85-year-old pope, who took over his post in 2005, declared that his "strength of mind and body ... has deteriorated to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me."
Montgomery County Reacts: Who Should Be the Next Pope?
Across Montgomery County, parishes reacted to the news with surprise and support.
“It was a shock, as you can guess, a surprise to all of us. Nobody expected it, though he’s up in age, but you have to give him credit -- decision it’s not easy, to give up tremendous power and prestige,” said Father Donald Worch of Our Lady of Mercy Rectory in Potomac. “It’s probably a good model for all of us.”
Though retired, Father Worch is active at the rectory, helping with the sacramental life of the parish and in the spirtual care of the parishioners, according to the Our Lady of Mercy website.
“After mass we talked about it,” Worch said. “We all think highly of him and we’re sorry to see him leave but it is the best thing – you see how he looks: he’s gotten older, like President Obama, he had black hair when he took office and now he’s gray.”
At Principal Teri Dwyer took the time during the school’s morning prayer to talk about the papacy.
“The kids talked about some of their grandparents and great-grandparents who are 85-86 and they said they couldn’t imagine them flying all around the world and the weight of leading the Church,” Dwyer said.
Father Agustin Lopez of St. Raphael Catholic Church offered to talk Dwyer’s students through the process of choosing a new pope.
“Our students were excited about the white smoke,” Dwyer said. “One beautiful thing about working with kids is they always look to the future with hope.”