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LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- Too weak to continue, the leader of the Catholic Church shocked the world Monday as he announced his decision to step aside. Today, we have reaction from Catholics in Louisville. What's next for the church -- and why does a local professor claim he saw it coming?
Mid-day mass brought a new tenor to the Cathedral of the Assumption. Catholics the world over were stunned by the Pope's big announcement: nearly eight years in the Vatican, Pope Benedict the 16th will become the first pope since Pope Gregory XII in 1415 to resign.
He told Cardinals that he lacks the strength to fulfill his duties.
Most Rev. Joseph E. Kurtz, Archbishop of Louisville, reacted Monday to the imminent resignation of Pope Benedict XVI's decision to resign on February 28. He said when he saw the Pope in Rome in October, he saw "no signs" of weakness.
"No signs in terms of frailty, in terms of his capacity to interact to speak," he said. "I think at the age of 85, his ability to travel has been curtailed."
The Pontiff appointed Archbishop Joseph Kurtz to Louisville in 2007.
The Archbishop said he learned of the Pope's resignation like much of the world did: on Twitter. The Pope has 1.5 million Twitter followers -- part of the one-billion Roman Catholics in the world.
"That pastoral heart that he sought to reach out to people as Christ would, I think, will be his legacy," Kurtz said.
But Benedict's legacy will also be tied to the troubles of the Catholic Church: how he handled the scandals of priest sex abuse, and hundreds of millions of dollars paid to young male victims.
Bellarmine Professor Gregory Hillis believes the announcement sets a new precedent.
"Benedict had made a number of comments in the past, in books as well as interviews, that he thought that a Pope that was physically, psychologically or spiritually incapable of doing his job had the obligation to resign," Hillis said. "I think that this is simply a reality of the modern age and this will become the norm."
Experts say the new Pope will be tasked with new evangelization in a way that has new order, new methods and new enthusiasm.
For followers of the Catholic faith, it is a time of uncertainty, a time of opportunity, perhaps most, a time of prayer.