Tacoma-area Catholics reacted with shock, surprise and concern today to Pope Benedict XVIs announcement that he will resign Feb. 28.
When John Songco of Fircrest read the news alert on his cellphone, he thought: "This is something. This is really big."
Songco said he'd rather the 85-year-old pope remain in his position to provide continuity, even if he is ill.
Pope John Paul II "continued serving despite what illness he had, said Songco, 33, holding his 5-month-old daughter after morning Mass at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Tacoma.
Parishioners at Tacoma's largest Catholic parish expressed a range of emotion about the unexpected news.
Paul Frohlich, 70, said he wants "whatever's best for the pope."
I wouldnt want him overtaxed, said Frohlich, 70, of Tacoma. Im sure he prayed about this decision and chose the right thing to do not only for himself but also for our church.
I wasnt expecting it, Frohlich said.
Neither was Maryann Kalapus, of University Place.
She said she was shocked by the news.
I just heard it on the radio, Kalapus said after Mass. I hope hes not ill.
Rich Rewolinksi noted its not the first time a pope has stepped down. But its a first in 600 years
Im not totally stunned like some people, said Rich Rewolinski, 72, of University Place. Its kind of a surprise.
The Rev. Michael McDermott, St. Charles pastor, asked parishioners twice during the Mass to pray for the pope.
In a statement today, Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, spiritual leader for 600,000 practicing Catholics in Western Washington, said he reacted with strongly mixed feelings like many Catholics
His decision is clearly a very personal, spiritual one, and it expresses his unfailing care and concern for the church he has served tirelessly throughout his life, Sartain said.
Having had the opportunity to meet him on several occasions, I have always been struck by his humility and kindness, said Sartain, who called Benedict a brilliant theologian.
He will be missed, but we may be assured that, as with all his decisions, his announcement today was made prayerfully and for the benefit of the church and all people of faith.