Nebraska Catholics React to the Pope's Resignation

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Catholics around the world are wondering who will lead their church next, after Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation Monday morning. The Pope's announcement was one that shocked many Catholics.

"Was I surprised? Yes. If something didn't happen for 600 years, you tend to be surprised," said Bishop William Dendinger of the Grand Island Diocese.

"We've been having this tradition that the Pope has to be in charge until he dies, and this is something new," added Luis Fernandez, a member of St. Mary's Cathedral in Grand Island.

The last pope to step down did it in 1415. In his speech, the Pope said that his decision comes after much prayer and consideration. He noted that his mental and physical strength has deteriorated to the point that "I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me."

Maria Garcia, a practicing Catholic in Grand Island, was among those who was surprised.

"At first I was like, what? But now if you think about it, it's good. It's good that he knows when to stop. But it is different," Garcia said.

"It's not only his decision, it's also God's decision," added Fernandez.

Bishop Dendinger said although he was initially surprised, he understood the Pope's decision after some reflection of his time with the Pontiff.

"In 2004, he was very, very agile, very alert, very, very animated. Then I met him this past March, in 2012, I was just really surprised how he had really lost a lot of his vigor. His voice was soft and he was sitting all the time," Dendinger said.

The papal conclave, the meeting where the College of Cardinals elects a new pope, is expected to begin once the Pope steps down at the end of the month. The Bishop said he expects their choice to reflect the increasing diversity of the Catholic Church.

"There will be a lot of factors: age, nationality, ethnic background, the place that they come from, that'll be really important in their initial evaluations of whom should we elect, but in the final analysis it will be under the power of the Holy Spirit," Dendinger said.

A new pope is expected to be elected by the end of March.