Pope Benedict XVI's Monday resignation announcement left Bel Air's Catholic community reeling along with the rest of the world.
"A pope’s resignation is totally unprecedented [in modern times] and has not happened in 598 years," Patti Murphy Dohn, John Carroll School campus minister, said Monday. "So this news was shocking to all of us."
The 85-year-old pope said he will officially resign Feb. 28 because he does not have the strength to carry out his duties, according to an article on Reuters.com.
Dohn said she ran the course of emotions Monday morning before sharing the news with the students at John Carroll during morning announcements.
"They are witnessing and experiencing a new chapter in our church's history," Dohn said.
The students showed great interest in the changes, according to Dohn.
"Over the course of the day students have asked some interesting questions, a lot of that shows that they don’t have a lot of information about what happens during transitioning when the pope dies or in this case resigns," Dohn said.
This lack of familiarity with the process is likely because of age.
"My kids here would have ranged from 5 to 9 years old the last time this happened," Dohn said, referring to the 2005 papal transition.
Much like the students, Dohn personally had a lot to digest after hearing the news.
“I think all of us went through the varying stages of grief, shock, disbelief...and then some sympathy at the announcement of the Holy Father’s resignation," Dohn said.
Charlotte Henderson, Pastoral Associate at St. Mark Roman Catholic Church in Fallston shared Dohn's sentiments.
“We were all extremely surprised, we found it to be pretty sad," Henderson said. "We thought it was quite courageous of him to do in feeling that he was not quite up to this and coming into Lent and the Easter season; that he was looking out for the church."
Henderson said the church leaders at St. Mark are planning a prayer service and mass for the resignation day and in the meantime continue to pray.
"We don’t know quite what to make of it so we just pray that the Holy Spirit and the Cardinals work together and get us a wonderful pope again," Henderson said.
Dohn said only the future will show if this announcement will mark a new trend in the church.
"I think his announcement to step down was courageous and risky. He has shown forth a vulnerability to accepting God’s will both for his life and the future of the church," Dohn said.
One thing is for sure, Pope Benedict XVI will not participate in choosing his successor as it is prohibited by canon law—the codes that govern the Catholic Church.