Catholic leaders in Iowa are reacting with surprise at Monday's announcement that Pope Benedict will be stepping down at months' end due to his declining health.
The 85-year-old pontiff is the first pope since the Middle Ages to make such a move.
Bishop R. Walker Nickless of the Sioux City Diocese says he was shocked and surprised by the decision. The Bishop says he is sure that God's perfect plan for his church and the salvation of souls is being followed and that all things work for the good of those who love him.
Pope Benedict will be stepping down February 28th. It's expected that a replacement will be chosen by the end of March.
Nickless says he joins the whole church in praying for the Pope, for the College of Cardinals and for his successor.
The last pope to resign willingly was Celestine the Fifth in the year 1294.
Tom Chapman, executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference, says there's no clear choice at this time for a successor:
The Pope's resignation is of particular interest due to the timing as this is considered a special "Year of Faith" by the Church:
That landmark summit ran from 1962 to '65 and made some "updates" in how the Church presents itself to the world, for example, an end to doing Mass in Latin.
Radio Iowa contributed to this story