Surprise, a lack of understanding and even some disappointment, those were among the initial emotions expressed by a number of Canadians on Monday after Pope Benedict XVI announced he would be resigning at the end of the month.
Canadians holding high office in the Catholic church acknowledged the Pope's move was unconventional and a shock for the church, but said it was something Benedict did for the good of the church.
"This is not a cause for anxiety or worry because the church has been, is now, and always will be in the hands of God, and guided by God," said Archbishop Richard Smith, who is also president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.
"This particular decision, as surprising and unprecedented as it is in modern times, is thoroughly consistent with the witness that (Benedict) has given us through many, many years. It is something that he has taken with serious thought, solely for the good of the church."
Benedict becomes the first pontiff to step down in 600 years. The 85-year-old declared he would resign Feb. 28, citing a lack of strength to do the job.
The news drew exclamations from parishioners, some of whom headed to mid-day mass specifically to seek further information on the Pope's startling announcement.
"I'm so sad," said Ana Amos, 48, as she headed into St. Michael's Cathedral in Toronto. "I cried when Pope John Paul died, and next I was happy that another pope came, but now he is resigning, I don't know why?"
Other Canadians mourned Benedict's impending departure.
"We have never had such a brilliant man in the papacy. It's going to be quite a loss," said Helene Hoffman before she sat down for mass. "He's a great Pope, it's just strange that he's leaving."
There were those, however, who thought Benedict's move was the right one.
"We need somebody younger to be able to carry out the duties of the pope," said Maria Ebhabha. "I think he did a good thing, because he's old."
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