The Catholic News Service reports Pope Benedict XVI will step down Feb. 28. The pontiff cited health reasons and "advanced age" as reasons for his move. The pontiff will become the first pope to voluntarily resign the office since 1415. Despite leaving the papacy, Benedict XVI said he wants to "devotedly serve the holy church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer."
Missouri Catholics and their leaders responded with shock, surprise, hope and sadness at the pope's announcement.
* The Kansas City Star published statements from area church leaders. Bishop Robert W. Finn, head of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, said Benedict XVI "has been a wonderful Holy Father: brilliant, joyful and holy." Finn said the pontiff's ministry "has had historic and lasting implications."
* Retired Monsignor Robert S. Gregory gave a homily at Kansas City's cathedral on Monday afternoon. The Star reveals around 50 parishioners heard Gregory say, "We are not orphans and we are well taken care of and we have nothing whatsoever to fear, yet we are glad and grateful to Pope Benedict for his generous service."
* Rev. Justin Hoye of St. Patrick Catholic Church in Kansas City North noted the timing of the pope's announcement. He said Monday was World Day of the Sick, a day where Catholics pray specifically for people who are ill. "I think the fact he chose this date to make his announcement maybe underscores the reality that he is 85," Hoye told the Star.
* St. Louis auxiliary Bishop Edward Rice spoke on behalf of church leaders in the Gateway City during a news conference. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reveals Rice said he "was very happy for [Benedict]. He'll get some rest and relaxation." Rice noted he saw the pope in November and said he had "slowed down."
* New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, a St. Louis native, said no one in the church had advance notice of the pope's resignation. The cardinals themselves found out early Monday morning, according to the Post-Dispatch.
* Father Lewis Hejna of Immaculate Conception Church in Springfield, Mo., was in disbelief. Someone called to inform him and Hejna "thought [the caller] was kidding," according to the Springfield News-Leader .
* Father Fergus Monaghan told the News-Leader, "This is a surprise" and reasoned Benedict XVI "didn't want to put the church through a long ordeal." Monaghan also noted the current pontiff was already one of the oldest elected in the past 300 years at the age of 78 in 2005.
* Renee Rasch and Tom McGurie, both Catholics in Kansas City, told KCTV they were in "shock" and "surprised" with the announcement. McGurie also said the resignation was the "best thing" because of the pontiff's age.
William Browning, a lifelong Missouri resident, writes about local and state issues for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. Born in St. Louis, Browning earned his bachelor's degree in English from the University of Missouri. He currently resides in Branson.