Pope Benedict's resignation has stunned Catholics worldwide, including those here in Tucson.
"I was just on my way over to Church when my friend called me. she said it was on Facebook. I'm surprised, and it's health reasons, that's sad," said Angie Lopez, a Catholic who was on her way to Mass on Monday evening.
Clara Sandoval, another Catholic said she was praying for the Pope.
"We'll continue to pray for him and hope everything will be okay," said Sandoval.
Bishop Gerald Kicanas with the Catholic Diocese of Tucson said he heard the news early this morning, and was surprised as well.
Kicanas has met the Pope at least 10 times and described him as a holy and humble man who loved animals.
"He's a great lover of cats. He has received the award for humanitarian toward animals, he would feed all the stray cats outside in the Vatican," said Kicanas.
He added that the Pope was a gentle and loving kind of person who was very soft-spoken. Over the years, he had seen the Pope's health decline, and he had appeared to be frail the last time Kicanas saw him in May, 2012.
Monsignor Albert Schifano had accompanied Kicanas on a trip to Rome. For Schifano, it was the experience of a lifetime.
"It was huge. Beyond anything I ever imagined or dreamt I would have the opportunity to do," said Schifano.
Schifano had pictures of his meeting with Pope Benedict hanging on his office walls. He described the meeting as brief, but impactful.
"I felt like in his eyes I was the only person. He had that kind of attentiveness," said Schifano.
He added that the Pope had gifted him a Rosary inside a leather bag with a coat of arms on it. He kept that Rosary by his bedside and prayed with it every morning. It was one of his most treasured possessions, said Schifano.
In his eight year reign, Pope Benedict had faced many challenges. Kicanas said the priest sex abuse scandal was one that had taken it's toll on the Pope. He had publicly apologized for it repeatedly, during his reign.
"For him, as the head of the church to realize that children were abused by priests, it really tore at his heart, and brought him great sadness," said Kicanas.
Many Catholics said they were praying for the Pope's health and for the Holy Spirit to guide the Cardinals who would be electing the next leader of the Catholic Church.
Schifano said Pope Benedict had been a great inspiration to him, as well as a role model.
"When we met, I was a little surprised when he turned to me and said please pray for me. I thought how humble, shouldn't you should be praying for me," said Schifano.
Pope Benedict is expected to go into isolation for a while after his resignation at the end of this month.
Kicanas said, to elect a new Pope, Cardinals from all over the world will start arriving in Rome in March. They will lock themselves inside the Sistine Chapel, and be in sequestration as they hold elections, and vote for a new Pope from among themselves.
After the final vote is cast, a plume of white smoke will be seen rising from the Sistine Chapel. The doors will open, and that is when the world will be greeted by Pope Benedict's successor.
Kicanas said the whole process could last anywhere from several days to several weeks.
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