Local Priests Shocked by Pope's Resignation

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By Monique Williams

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) -- A spokesperson for the Catholic Diocese of Charleston, which comprises the entire state of South Carolina, says this unprecedented resignation announcement from Pope Benedict caught everyone by surprise.

It's the two week notice no catholic saw coming, the resignation announcement of Pope Benedict XVI. It's the first time in several centuries a living pope will step down.

Pastor of Saint John Neumann School in Columbia, Father Sandy McDonald, was shocked at the news.

"All of a sudden I hear [on the radio] 'Pope Benedict will resign at the end of the month.' I woke up a bit more, got out of bed and within a few minutes I thought to myself, 'Did I just dream that?'"

Father McDonald admires the pope resigning, citing he is aging and ailing, and believes this is a new opportunity for the Catholic Church.

"We will see perhaps more preparation being done since Pope Benedict is, in fact, giving notice."

Another Midlands priest agrees. Monsignor Richard Harris, pastor of Saint Joseph's Church in Columbia, said in a statement:

"It is interesting to me that he chose today, February 11, as the date to make this announcement. The late blessed John Paul II, his predecessor, had designated this day as World Day of Prayer for the sick. He reminded us to pray for our sick brothers and sisters, and to see in them the face of Christ. Pope Benedict recognizing his declining physical condition may inspire the healthy among us to thank god for the gift of our good health, and encourage us to daily lift our prayers for those who are suffering any type infirmity."

Father McDonald believes the pope's legacy of unity and theological intellect will far outshine any negativity associated with child molestation, an ongoing scandal the catholic church continues to battle.

"He was already setting out clear guidelines for renewal of predator priests when he worked for Pope John Paul II and he continued that."

A Vatican spokesperson has already said "by Easter we will have the new pope."

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