News that Pope Benedict XVI will resign his post at the end of the month is reverberating through Calgary's Catholic community.

Outside a downtown Calgary Catholic church on Monday, parishioners called the news surprising. 

"He is just doing the right thing," said Jesus Nunez, who has a lot of respect for the Pope's contributions. "He is not strong enough."

"I was a bit shocked actually," said Margaret Waghchoure. "I think he was very good, very broad-minded and not very conservative." 

Michael Duggan, a professor of theology at St. Mary's University College in Calgary, said it was a brave move.

"I think it was a very wise decision. This is a man who is in touch with his health. He said that the world is changing so dramatically, that there are so many issues for someone in his position to have to attend to. And he just didn’t have the physical and emotional strength at the present time."

In a statement on Vatican Radio's website Monday, the 85-year-old Pope said his health is the reason for the surprise announcement.

"After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry," the Pope said.

Benedict said his strength, over the last few months, "has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me."

'Seriousness of this act'

The head of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, Benedict said he was "well aware of the seriousness of this act." The last pontiff to quit in office was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415 to end a schism in the church.

Benedict announced his decision in Latin during a meeting with cardinals Monday morning. The move caught even those closest to him off guard.

There will be no pontiff until a successor is chosen, the Vatican said. That selection process is expected to take place in mid-March.

The three Canadian cardinals who will be part of the conclave to pick a new pontiff are:

  • Cardinal Marc Ouellet, head of the Vatican's office for bishops.
  • Cardinal Thomas Collins, archbishop of Toronto.
  • Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, retired archbishop of Montreal.

Any cardinal under age 80 can vote in the selection of a new pontiff. They will be sequestered in Vatican City for a conclave that must be held between 15 and 20 days after Benedict's last day.

Voting will be conducted in secret, and the ballots are burned following each round of balloting. White smoke indicates that a new pontiff has been selected, while black smoke indicates that no decision has been reached.

At the time of his selection as Pope, Benedict was 78 years old, making him the oldest pontiff elected in roughly three centuries.

A bookish Pope who did not have the charisma of his predecessor, Benedict was a conservative theologian who tried to rekindle faith in Catholics and remind the church of its traditions.

With files from The Associated Press