Farmingdale-area Roman Catholics joined a stunned world Monday at the announcement that Pope Benedict XVI would step down at the end of February.
The Holy Father, who has been in deteriorating health, indicated he is too sick to carry on his duties. It will be the first time in 600 years that a sitting Pope has abdicated the Throne of St. Peter.
St. Kilian R.C. Church is offering prayers and gratitude.
"It is with great wisdom that he made this decision, said Monsignor Michael P. Flynn, St. Kilian's pastor. "We are most grateful to Almighty God for his years as leader of the Catholic Church."
Flynn said Benedict ascended to the papacy at a time of many crises around the globe and has worked for peace and healing:
"He has reached out to many hurting people to bring about healing," Flynn said, "and has made many difficult decisions to bring about healing."
Pope John Paul II reigned from 1978 until his death in 2005 and is on the path to Sainthood. He was replaced by the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who has has been the pontiff since April, 2005.
Benedict's resignation sets the stage for the conclave, a secret meeting in Rome of all church Cardinals under 80 years old to decide his successor.
The word "conclave" means, literally, "with a key." Symbolically, the College of Cardinals can not leave the conclave without deciding on a new leader of the world's 1 billion Roman Catholics.
"He is aware of his human limitations, as we all must be," Flynn said of Pope Benedict, who is 85. "We pray for his health and peace during his retirement."
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